Update Your Employee Handbook

Update Your Employee Handbook

There may have been more changes in the workplace over the past 2 years than there have been in a decade. NDAs, personal standards, hour and wage expectations and legalized drugs, among other issues, may need to be addressed in your employee handbook. Your handbook should be reviewed annually to reflect the changing professional environment as well as the evolving preferences of your principal. For employers that do not update antiquated policies risk missing out on adequately addressing new issues and will have a hard time enforcing compliance.

As employers consider their current policies, they may decide to create a set of criteria to judge their handbooks against their company values and not just common best practices. “This is an opportunity to hone in a little deeper,” said Dee C. Marshall, CEO the HR firm Diverse & Engaged. This is especially relevant in domestic service, where each employee is a representation of the principal.

We’ve identified five areas Estate Managers should consider reviewing or adding to their 2023 handbooks. 

#1: Nondisclosure

Last year California passed the ‘Silenced No More’ Act, SB-331,  which provided employees with more rights when accepting and challenging an NDA including”

  1. Right to Consult an Attorney;
  2. Five-Day Period to Consider Agreement; and most notably:
  3. Non-Disparagement Provisions: Employers may continue to use non-disparagement provisions as a condition of employment or in settlement agreements. However, a non-disparagement provision that restricts an employee’s ability to disclose information related to conditions in the workplace must include the following language: “Nothing in this agreement prevents you from discussing or disclosing information about unlawful acts in the workplace, such as harassment or discrimination or any other conduct that you have reason to believe is unlawful.”

Be sure your NDA’s are updated and redistributed. 

#2: Personal Appearance

Even before workers were wearing sweats to Zoom meetings, organizations were beginning to relax their dress codes with ‘casual everyday’ replacing ‘casual Friday’. Now that the pandemic has normalized comfy work wardrobes, employers must ensure written policies regarding appearance take the new reality into account, Marshall said.

Employees in private households especially need to be appropriately dressed at all times.  Estate Managers can address more than just clothing; hair, makeup, jewelry, and even fragrances can and should be addressed.  Providing uniforms is the easiest way to be sure everyone is meeting the household’s standards.

#3: Technology

Policies outlining technology rules should accompany a handbook’s section. Many should include a section for remote and hybrid work. Multi-factor authentication made it much more possible for employees to use their own devices, Rice said. “But where does your company stand on allowing employees to purchase and use their own technology?” she asked. 

Organizations that allow employees to use their own tech will need to decide, for instance, whether the company will reimburse workers for their work-related tech expenses, and who owns the contents of the device. The handbook will also need to include policies that ensure cyber safety and security.

#4: Wage and Hour Policies

Wage and hour claims continue to be among the most frequently filed claims in employment litigation, and related retaliation claims are increasing. Employee Handbooks should define ‘hourly’, ‘part-time’, ‘full-time’, ‘salaried’, ‘exempt’ and any other pay rate situations including expected hours, and overtime policies.

Employee handbooks should address who employees should contact with any concerns regarding their hours and pay, in order to prevent arguments that employees did not have avenues to resolve their complaints. In addition, handbooks containing non-retaliation provisions related to employee complaints about hours or pay may be useful. While such provisions can be found in almost every policy prohibiting discrimination and sexual harassment, they are often forgotten in the context of complaints regarding wages.

#5: Marijuana use and testing

Marijuana may still be illegal under federal law, but President Joe Biden has announced his administration will review marijuana’s scheduling. Meanwhile, more states are adding protections for workers. In California, for instance, employers can’t discriminate against workers for legal marijuana use outside work. It’s imperative to check the updated laws in our state.

“Employers need to get out in front of this trend and make a decision as to how they want to treat those who test positive and how they want to use testing so they treat everyone fairly,” Rasmussen said. This preparation will include a look at job descriptions — “there will always be jobs where you can be more strict for safety reasons,” he noted.

No matter the changes HR decides to make in its 2023 handbook, there needs to be a plan for communicating those updates to employees. Once a new handbook is published, employees need time to review and acknowledge the new material. He generally recommends giving workers a small window of time to complete this task: long enough to read through the handbook, but brief enough that the task stays front of mind.

Lastly, managers should ensure they’re ready to answer questions about any changes made. “Set up a procedure so that employees have the ability to get time with someone who is knowledgeable on the handbook and can really answer those questions,” Rasmussen said. “Ensure the people you direct them to are knowledgeable regarding the changes and how they’re implemented.”

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