Pick an employee, any employee. The most important document in that employee’s personnel file – and in EVERY employee’s personnel file – is one you probably don’t give much thought to until the employee has left the job. It is the Acknowledgement page from your employee handbook.
Generally placed in the back of the handbook, the Acknowledgement page states that the employee has received a copy of the employer’s policies and has had the opportunity to read them. Normally there are both a contract disclaimer and an at-will acknowledgement as part of that page. If you update your employee handbook, you need to have new acknowledgement pages signed by all employees and kept on file as well.
If you are not having your employees sign this page and then keeping it on file, your business is at risk — at risk of taking an employment action based upon a policy that you cannot prove the employee had notice of. This can lead to an award of unemployment compensation and it can be used against you in a discrimination claim. All of this can be avoided if you simply make a regular practice of ensuring that ALL employees – from the CEO to the janitor – have signed their employee handbook’s acknowledgement page and returned it so it can be placed in their personnel file.
For those employers that have moved away from paper copies of their handbooks and instead put them on-line, you need some other form of acknowledgement documentation so you can show that the employee is on notice of the policies.