Ok, not literally. But if you have kids who have gone to overnight camp, you know what I mean – it’s like being at adult camp. And this year, my kids decided that they wanted to go for the whole summer! When I share this with people and see the corresponding looks on their faces, it’s as if I’ve just told them that I’ve won the lottery.
So what does this mean? It means that I get a chance every summer to get organized and tend to at least some of those projects that I otherwise never have time for. And all of this organizing got me to thinking about what I might suggest to someone in human resources looking to do a little summer “closet cleaning”. There were a number of things that immediately came to mind:
1. Dig out those employment contract templates.
I still have clients who, when challenged on the enforceability of an employment contract, are surprised to hear that there could be a problem, despite the fact that the contract was drafted many, many years ago and hasn’t been touched since. That’s the thing with the law – it’s not static. That employment contract template that you’re using, even if you paid a lawyer to draft it, may have problems with it, purely by virtue of the passage of time. An update doesn’t have to be an expensive exercise, and the fees associated with a review can be far outweighed by attempts to rely on an unenforceable contract in the future.
2. Dust off that employment handbook or manual.
Summer is a great opportunity to review the employee handbook or manual and determine if it needs updating. Issues like privacy, use of social media and use of electronic equipment evolve at such a rapid clip that an annual update of these policies alone is worthwhile. It can also be valuable to review some of the challenges which have come up with employees over the past year and see if a new policy or edits to an existing policy will help clarify things going forward.
3. Consider a legal refresher.
One of the things that we have been doing more and more with our employer clients is working with their HR departments to provide legal updates. Often having up-to-date information about what judges and human rights tribunals are doing can be a powerful tool for the HR professional looking to avoid litigation in the first place. Anytime we work on a case with a client, we’ll look for opportunities to provide learning or put practices in place after-the-fact that can help avoid similar cases in the future. Summer can be the ideal time to look at some of these projects, or just arrange for a discussion (maybe a “lunch and learn” – maybe even outside on a beautiful day!) to help update the team on what’s new and need-to-know in employment law.
None of these are new ideas but they’re the kind of things that, like cleaning my oven and changing batteries on my smoke detectors, we can use reminding about from time to time. So, if you need something to distract you while your kids are gone this summer, or perhaps you just like the idea of heading into the fall with everything in its place, consider a little employment law updating.