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Updating Your Employer Handbook for 2019

May 31, 2019 | posted by Abacus Payroll

Your employee handbook should be a go-to compendium of resources to help both you and your employees keep your workplace compliant and employee-friendly. Unfortunately, it can be all too easy for you to let your employee handbook’s contents go without an update for long enough that it no longer mentions relevant criteria, thus landing you in hot water down the road.

Here are a few things your employee handbook should address for the coming year.


“Ban the Box”

If you aren’t familiar with it already, “Ban the Box” legislature refers to any bill that aims to restrict job interview questions about criminal history. The actual laws surrounding this movement vary from state to state, so you’ll need to check your area’s requirements (or lack thereof) before updating your handbook.

In case you can’t ask potential employees about their criminal backgrounds, you’ll usually have a few options that ensure you aren’t hiring someone who won’t fit your company culture; for example, in most states that restrict your hiring questions, you’ll be able to inquire in a more in-depth capacity about an applicant’s history once you officially offer them the job.

Regardless of restrictions, though, you should make sure that your employee handbook outlines the kinds of crimes, history, or criminal behavior that you won’t tolerate. Telling your employees which behaviors can get them fired isn’t just a courtesy—it’s a necessity.


Speaking of potentially fire-worthy behavior: Your employee handbook should absolutely mention your recreational drug policy, especially your attitude toward cannabis use. Since cannabis is such a hot topic these days, your employees will invariably have questions about its use, particularly if it is legal in your state. You’ll want to have your work policy, after-hours policy, and under-the-influence policy all mentioned in your handbook to avoid confusion.

Medical cannabis presents another potentially sticky problem, but in most cases, the state will give you an idea of what you have to tolerate in terms of work and home use. You’ll need to comply with your state’s policies regarding medical use, but it’s still a good idea to mention your criteria for a positive work environment vis-à-vis being under the influence in your handbook.

Paid Time Off

When gauging your stance on PTO, it’s best to start with the state’s requirements and go from there. Mentioning the minimum time required by the state in your handbook and then adding information about extenuating circumstances, rewards, or other potential for additional time off is a good way to ensure that you’re delivering accurate information without missing any necessary criteria.

This is also a good time to touch on things like parental leave or mental health days if they’re built into your company. Again, the state you live in will most likely dictate what’s necessary; feel free to use that as scaffolding for your company policy.

Salary History

Since you can’t ask for your employees’ salary history in most states, and other states have strict gender parity salary laws, putting a salary scale directly in the employee handbook may ameliorate some of your employees’ confusion regarding the scale. This can also prompt employees to bring up their former salaries in an attempt to determine where they land on the current scale, thus giving you an answer to a question you’re not legally allowed to ask.

The downside to including a scale is that you’ll probably have to change it every year, but this is easy if your employee handbook is in a digital format (as it should be).

Anti-Discrimination Policy

This should be a no-brainer, but make sure that you’re updating your employee handbook to cover different forms of discrimination in the zero-tolerance section. As different forms of discrimination policies emerge, the language you use to ensure no group gets excluded can actually become less inclusive; for that reason, you’ll want to ensure that you’re covering the following categories:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Orientation
  • Religion
  • Economic status

You’ll also want to include a blurb about bullying; regardless of the general maturity of the room, including anti-bullying language will help clarify the lines surrounding workplace behavior and the boundaries your employees wish to draw.

You may even include accommodations for religious holidays (Ramadan, for example) or events based around social issues (parades or protests) to show your employees that your workplace is inclusive, though you’ll probably need to outline the kinds of events or holidays for which employees can miss time.

Other Policies

Your handbook will include dozens of policies, so it’s unrealistic to expect to cover them all in one post; however, here a few more important things to mention in your handbook:

  • Remote work – Can employees work remotely? What are the stipulations?
  • E-cigarette use – What is your policy on things like vaping?
  • Weapons – Can employees carry licensed, concealed weapons in your workplace?
  • Disaster plans – What are your fire, flood, earthquake, and active shooter drills?

Regardless of your workplace culture or location, these are all things you should include in your employee handbook.


Taking your existing employee handbook and updating it to meet today’s rapidly changing criteria is a challenge, and you’re bound to miss something important in your first draft. For more information on how you can create an employee handbook that keeps your troops happy and your business compliant, call Abacus Payroll at (856) 667-6225 today!

Outsource Your HR Help:

Our HR Help Center has various package options from affording you Employee Handbook samples to a full-on development strategy for a completely custom Employee Handbook. Pricing starts at $11 per month. Learn more at

About the Author: Abacus Payroll

Abacus Payroll, Inc. is a leading provider of payroll solutions for businesses of all sizes. Whether yours is a family-owned small business or a national corporation, we provide payroll, tax and other financial services on time and at an affordable price. Unlike other payroll providers, Abacus Payroll will assign your very own payroll specialist who will understand your payroll needs inside and out. So no more speaking to a different person each time, no more sitting on hold for hours and most importantly no more missed deadlines! Contact us today to see how we can help your business. You can count on us.