Your Employee Manual-Your best friend or your worst enemy?

Your Employee Manual-Your best friend or your worst enemy?

In our upcoming seminar on May 19th, we’ll be discussing employee manuals.  I often find there are two schools of thought on them.  Most agree, the better the manual, the easier your life will be.  The second is; if it’s not written down, I can’t get into trouble.  While arguments could be made for both, we are quickly finding the second argument is fading away.

Having an effective employee manual is a cornerstone document for your organization regardless of size.  It sets the laws of your organization and is often referenced when things go wrong, or there is a question.  When we have to call the Department of Labor on a client’s behalf, very often the first question asked is “what does their employee manual say”.  While your manual doesn’t have to be as complicated as a Fortune 500’s would be, it should lay out basic and specific information that you can reference and hold both your organization and your employee’s accountable to.  For example, how much bereavement leave does someone get and when do they get it?  Trying to remember how much you gave someone for their Aunt’s passing 5 years ago (if you gave it at all) can be difficult…and if you get it wrong for the next employee there’s a VERY good chance they know exactly how much the other person received.  A good manual will take the burden of fair treatment off your back, and will allow everyone to see what the rules of the game are.

With this said, your employee manual must be followed.  You want to be sure it doesn’t create some sort of employment contract, but you also want to follow it in every situation.  Failing to do so can create issues of preferential treatment, bias, discrimination, etc.  And we all know where those situations go.  While this is the catch to employee manuals, you get to create them yourself, so put the stuff in there you’re going to do.

And don’t be afraid to pull the employee manual out…judges refer to their law books all the time!  It can often diffuse hurt feelings or questions when you say to an employee, “Let’s see what the employee manual says”.

For questions relating to Employee Manual, or any other compliance advice, please contact one of our compliance advisors by calling 877-352-2121 or email

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