Has your organization had its employment policies updated recently? If not, your organization could be exposing itself to unnecessary liability due to outdated policies. It is in an organization’s best interest for its employment policies to keep up with the current state of the law, because a policy that does not comply with the law is often worse than having no policy at all.  

Although there are different formats that organizations can use to share their employment policies with their employees, organizations must be aware that there are several policies that are required to be provided to employees. Some organizations combine their employment policies into one employee handbook, while others keep their employment policies separate from each other. Combining policies into one employee handbook and requiring each employee to sign an acknowledgment of receipt and understanding of the handbook is a good way to provide a useful resource for employees and have proof of notice for each employee. On the other hand, utilizing separate policies makes it easier to revise a single policy when a change is necessary. Regardless of the format of an organization’s employment policies, organizations must be sure to provide notice of the must-have policies, such as a harassment reporting policy and a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policy (for larger organizations).  

Over time, employment policies will need to be revised as a result of new laws, changes to existing laws, employer preferences and technological advances. As a result, it is imperative that employment policies are reviewed and updated at least every two years. Events and trends of the past two years provide a good demonstration of the need to review and update employment policies.

With regard to existing laws, the FMLA has changed several times in the past two years, requiring substantial changes to FMLA policies. As to new laws, Ohio enacted a family military leave law in 2010 and the federal government passed a genetic information nondiscrimination law in 2008. Employee handbooks need to be reviewed, at a minimum, to account for these new laws. Employer preferences have also changed slightly in recent years. In an effort to simplify tracking of leave usage, some organizations have changed their leave policies to one paid time off category instead of having a variety of categories (e.g., sick time, vacation time, personal time). And on the subject of technological advances, the increased use of social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, etc.) by employees has led to the creation of policies on the use of electronic systems both at work and at home.  

It is important to get back to HR basics and have your employment policies updated without delay.