Your 2020 Handbook: Out With the Old, In With the New


With crucial information about workplace policies and procedures, an employee handbook is a go-to resource in many organizations. Yet with changing employment laws and regulations, it’s important to review your handbook annually and update it with compliant content. Here are five things to keep in mind as you undertake your 2020 handbook refresh.

  • Customize: While there are many standard “templates” available to guide the development of your handbook, remember that it needs to be tailored to your unique workplace. That means making sure the tone reflects your company’s culture and that the contents are relevant to workers. So be sure to ditch any generic information that doesn’t apply. And you’ll want to make sure to exclude any policies that you feel won’t be enforced or unrealistic given your work environment.
  • Be Consistent: In many companies, there are conflicting practices. That’s where a handbook can help. Start by determining which policies already exist and then create ones that don’t. In some cases, you’ll want a little wiggle room so consider more general language, such as “Generally, we will attempt to review your performance on an annual basis” instead of “You will receive an annual performance review.” And then compare your handbook side by side to other documents and in-person practices to ensure consistency.
  • Keep it Short: When you decide to include a policy in your handbook, be sure to write to the level of the entire employee population. That means keeping the language short and simple and using terms that everyone can understand. While some employment laws may make brevity a challenge, it’s still important to try to make the content easy to understand and avoid overly legalistic language.
  • Avoid Contractual Language: Despite what some may think, a handbook is not a contract. That’s why it’s important to avoid any language in your handbook that could be perceived as creating rights that are contrary to an employment-at-will relationship. So steer clear of terms like “probationary” or “permanent” and exclude binding non-competition/confidentiality and arbitration agreements.
  • Give Yourself an Out: When updating your handbook, it’s important to remember that sometimes federal and state laws differ, especially regarding topics such as leave or final paychecks. The best way to ensure conformance is to use a common catchall phrase like “unless otherwise required by state law” when applicable.

A handbook alone won’t guarantee compliance so remember to back up your policies and procedures with strict and consistent adherence, application, and enforcement. Once you update your handbook for 2020, share it with all employees and train managers and supervisors on the changes. 

For assistance with employee handbooks or other HR issues, contact Complete Payroll Solutions at 401-332-9325.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

HR Cast