Answers to Small Business Questions about Employee Handbooks and Policy Manuals
Call 800-929-1725 for an appointment to answer your questions about employee handbooks or policy manuals for your small business. You’re just trying to grow your business and the last thing you want to worry about is more paper, but you should not create an employee handbook or policy manual by copying one from the Internet. That’s absolutely the wrong thing to do — because you might not understand the legal implications of the document you’ve copied. Before you commit your business and your employees to a set of policies and procedures, make sure you understand what you’re doing by talking with the experienced small business attorneys at Wadler, Perches, Hundl & Kerlick. In this video, Attorney Ray Kerlick talks about some of the issues to consider in small business employee handbooks and policy manuals.
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Here’s a summary of Ray Kerlick’s video on small business employee handbooks and employee policy manuals.
Hi, my name is Ray Kerlick. I’m a partner in the law firm of Wadler, Perches, Hundl and Kerlick in Wharton Texas. Today I’d like to talk a little bit to small business owners about ideas involving employee handbooks and employee policy manuals.
A lot of our clients come to us asking about the concept of employee handbooks and policy manuals, thinking either that they need to have them or do they really need to have them or, “What should we do?” I think the short answer is you need to evaluate your company’s needs. What do I mean by that? Well, if you’re a company that employs 50 or more people, there are very specific items that you absolutely should have in an employee manual. A lot of these are mandated by the federal government, some by the state government, some by your insurance companies, and some by your worker’s comp carriers. But, when you get to a level where you’ve got that many people that you are employing, you should certainly make an attempt to sit down with an attorney and figure out what needs you need to meet and put those in writing.
Does a Business Have to Follow Its Own Employee Handbook or Policy Manual?
Typically an employee manual will involve also having all of your employees sign off on the employee manual, understanding that it is a condition of their continued employment. There are other situations in which you would say, perhaps nothing quite so elaborate is needed. Because, remember, once you do have an employee manual or policy manual of some sort, you should follow it. And if you don’t follow it, recognize that you could be held responsible or liable in some way for failing to follow it, whether it be in an employment setting, employment dispute of some sort, or whether in a future lawsuit of some sort. So, these are items that should not be undertaken lightly and certainly shouldn’t be copied from off the Internet, which is certainly what we see a lot of folks doing.
Recognize that once you put something in writing, whether you’ve copied it from a competitor or just taken it off of a website, you are potentially held to that responsibility and that’s not always something that you want to do. Certainly not if it’s not being required by a governmental entity or your insurance company.
Should You Have an Absentee Policy?
There are certain items that probably always ought to be covered though. So even if you have a small shop with three or four employees, you should always have certain things like an absentee policy, basically that provides how much time people have off and what happens if they fail to show up for work. That’s the most common reason, at least in my experience, for people terminating employees is, failure to show up for work. And often times people come to me and say, “Well, this person hasn’t show up over three days and so I’m going to fire them.” It certainly makes it a much more defensible case, should some action be taken later, if you have something in writing that says, for example, if someone doesn’t show up for three days, they’re terminated. That way you’ve followed your procedures, they violated your procedures, and therefore, you’ve got a valid basis which no one can really argue about in terms of the basis for their termination.
What about Safety Manuals for Your Small Business?
Real briefly, we’ll talk about safety manuals. Often times safety manuals are discussed at length by insurance companies and by folks involved in the safety business. Recognize what that means. Someone in the safety business certainly has a right to suggest that you have a safety manual but once you have a safety manual, you’ll have to follow it and if you fail to follow it, often times that will be the strongest evidence against you should a lawsuit ever be filed against you in the future. So, again this is something that should not be taken lightly and certainly should never be something that’s copied from another company or simply taken off the Internet.
Talk with Your Attorney about Your Business Needs in Drafting an Employee Handbook, a Policy Manual, or a Safety Handbook
You absolutely need to sit down with someone who can evaluate the risks that your employees undertake and help you craft a policy that allows you to have both the flexibility you need on individual jobs as well as laying down bright lines that you feel like your employees and supervisors need to follow. So, take that time. Sit down with someone and help put together a joint effort, that is an employee policy and a safety policy that fits your company. We look forward to hearing from you if you have any interest in discussing this and we appreciate your time. Thank you.
If you operate a small business, you’re making a mistake if you copy an employee handbook, a policy manual or a safety manual off the Internet without understanding the legal implications of what you’re doing. Don’t make that mistake — take that draft policy for a review by an experienced business attorney at Wadler, Perches, Hundl & Kerlick to ensure that you understand what you’ll be requiring your employees to do and your business to do when you implement the new handbook or policy manual. Call us at 800-929-1725 for an appointment or send us an email using our contact form.