Looking at the state of the workforce today in 2023, so much has changed and evolved in the past three years. Has your small business’s Employee Handbook evolved with the times? There have been both major and minor updates to labor and employment laws at both the state and federal levels. To consistently enforce policies, maintain compliance, and keep a pulse on your company’s culture, it’s vital to have an up-to-date Employee Handbook.
If your Employee Handbook is due for an update, here are some handbook topics that should be reviewed:
Hybrid schedule & COVID-related policies:
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many new approaches and required necessities when it comes to managing a workplace. From vaccination and visitor policies to mask enforcement to a change in work-from-home capabilities, COVID-19 has directly created changes in many business’ employee handbooks.
Your employees need to know your vaccination guidelines, worksite safety protocols, sick day policy, and remote and hybrid work rules. Consider incorporating COVID-related policies in a separate addendum for ease of updating and quick access for employees to reference. Keeping COVID-19 policies separate also underscores that they are temporary and can be modified at any time.
Employees’ expectations may now clash with employers’ old policies. Many employees have grown used to the flexibility and new work-from-home norms that many businesses took on with the rise of the pandemic. While a large portion of businesses are now seeing more workers back in the office, many are facing pushback on the return to in-person. It is important that your employee handbook clearly reflects the policies that you want your business to enforce. Being transparent with your employees about your expectations is crucial in this transition. It is also important to take these new experiences into consideration when rethinking your employee handbook. There may be an opportunity for new policies that allow your employees to continue to work from home and enjoy the flexibilities that the pandemic granted them, while still maintaining a productive work environment.
Many states, including New Jersey, have changed or implemented paid leave policies. Last year, the New Jersey Family Leave Act was strengthened to protect workers caring for sick family members, while broadening the definition of ‘family member’. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal measure that provides employees with unpaid, job-protected leave and benefits continuation in certain circumstances. It generally provides 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period or it can be more if they are caring for an injured or ill service member. Check with your state’s Department of Labor to make sure you are communicating the correct leave benefits to your employees for 2023.
Rights for pregnant employees and new mothers:
As of January, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) and Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP) have both been signed into law. These Acts require the proper care, fair treatment, and reasonable accommodations towards employees who are pregnant, nursing, or employees who are mentally or physically disabled due to pregnancy.
Recreational marijuana was made legal in New Jersey last year, and as of 2023, is legal in nearly 20 additional states. Non-discriminatory hiring policies, drug testing and impairment at the workplace are all issues that need to be addressed. If cannabis is legalized in your state, check with guidance provided at the state level.
There is no blanket policy that can be utilized across all industries when it comes to the use of cannabis in or outside of work hours. Some industries it may be dangerous to the employee and others if the employee is impaired due to marijuana use during or outside of work hours. If this is the case, a Zero Tolerance Marijuana Policy may be necessary.
We live in a technology-based world. From the pandemic allowing employees to work virtually, to the increasing number of devices becoming increasingly accessible to the general public, you cannot ignore addressing how technology is to be used during work hours. For example, many people recently received new technology during the holiday season; specifically smartwatches. How do smartwatches fit into your current employee handbook policy regarding technology usage? It is important not to be too restricting on your workforce, if your industry is safe to do so. Allowing your employees to have their personal devices with them during the workday helps create a healthy work/life balance.
In addition, with another year comes more advances in phishing and fraud attempts. Reports show that employees and human error are often the biggest vulnerabilities for companies, even those with proactive cybersecurity measures. Make sure your handbook includes language on an email policy, and how workers can take swift action if they suspect they’ve fallen victim to a scam on company systems or email server. While this isn’t require in the handbook, make sure you educate your employees about being cautious with phishing emails and other fraud attempts.
Retirement plan opt-in:
If you already have a workplace retirement plan, this may not apply to you. However, if you operate in one of the many states that are beginning to require auto-enrollment in a state-administered IRA program, make sure your handbook informs new and current employees about your new retirement program, required disclaimers, and what they have to do in order to opt-out. If you do not wish to be part of a state-run IRA, your business has customizable options with a financial advisor.
The hottest topic in labor law in 2022 and 2023 is the rise of pay transparency laws. From Colorado and Washington to California and New York City, more and more states and local municipalities are requiring salaries or salary ranges to publicly advertised in job descriptions and hiring ads. Even if you don’t have an office in one of these states or cities, some of the laws require pay disclosure if the job is for a remote position as well. Read up on the exact specifics and make sure your company’s policy is updated accordingly in your hiring process and employee handbook.
If your handbook hasn’t been updated in many years, the language may not be as neutral and inclusive as it needs to be in today’s day and age. Your handbook should spell out the company policies on equal pay, diversity and harassment, and be written using gender-inclusive language. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is crucial for creating and maintaining a successful and enjoyable workplace.
More Employee Handbook Guidance
If you’ve struggled to get together an Employee Handbook for your organization, or your existing one could really use a fine-tuning, ask your Abacus Payroll special about our affordable HR Help Center. Based on how much of a monthly budget you want to invest in supplemental HR support, you can access Employee handbook templates, an online builder, or a completely custom handbook strategically created by an certified PHR professional. Request a quote today.
As the years go on and the world continues to spin, there are components of the workforce that are continuously changing. Make sure that you make a regular habit of checking and updating your employee handbook accordingly. If you need assistance, contact us or visit Abacus Payroll’s HR Help Center today!
- Employee Handbook 101: Is Yours Up to Par?
- Why 2022 is the Time to Update Your Employee Handbook
- Updating Your Employer Handbook for 2019
- What is FMLA?
- Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA): What Small Businesses Need to Know
- Cannabis in the Workplace
- Marijuana and Your Workplace: Developing an Effective Cannabis Policy
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace
- Wearable Devices at Work: Are Smartwatches Part of a Company’s Cell Phone Policy?