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The Evolving Employee Handbook: 6 Issues to Consider

The Evolving Employee Handbook: 6 Issues to Consider
Credit: xtock/Shutterstock

Many organizations issue an employee handbook, an official document that covers their policies on everything from computer use to vacation time. As new technologies and business-related laws take hold in the office, human resources departments must update those policies to reflect the most current trends.

But this is easier said than done. A new survey by HR compliance resource XpertHR found that, although the majority of businesses (78 percent) have made revisions to their handbook within the last two years, the biggest challenge for 41 percent is continuing to keep their handbook up-to-date with an ever-changing workplace and workforce.

"Employee handbooks continue to be a perennial challenge and opportunity for employers," Peggy Carter-Ward, head of content at XpertHR, said in a statement. "The challenges of keeping up with a changing workforce, new laws and just getting employees to read the handbook are not new, yet addressing evolving workplace issues ... [is] complex."

Though it may be a difficult task, it's an important one: Updating your handbook to include emerging laws and trends, even if they haven't affected your company yet, will help head off any confusion among employees should a situation arise. Staying ahead of the curve can also help your business stay out of legal trouble. [Does Your Employee Handbook Need an Update?]

"Handbooks can be an excellent tool to ensure consistency in employee management as well as to make sure that all employees and supervisors are familiar with their rights and obligations," Carter-Ward said. "However, improperly drafted handbooks can create potential liability for employers and leave them susceptible to employee legal claims based on the content of the handbook."

According to the XpertHR survey, these are the top new and emerging workplace issues being addressed in the latest iterations of U.S. employee handbooks:

  • Paid sick leave (79.4 percent)
  • Data privacy (67.2 percent)
  • Social media (64.2 percent)
  • E-cigarettes (20.6 percent)
  • LGBT protection (17.2 percent)
  • BYOD policies (14.5 percent)

Although wearable technology and medical marijuana are hot topics among the general population, just 4.1 percent and 6.4 percent of organizations, respectively, tackle them in their official handbooks.

No matter which topics you ultimately decide to address in your handbook, make sure you discuss them with your staff and get their input before issuing an official policy.

XpertHR surveyed 521 representatives from public, private and nonprofit organizations about their workplace policies and employee handbooks. To view the full report, visit XpertHR

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and briefly ran Business.com's copy and production team. Follow her on Twitter.