An employee handbook is not a contract. In fact, your employee handbook should state in conspicuous terms that it is not a promise of employment for any set duration and that it is subject to amendment at any time, with or without notice. Rather, an employee handbook is an important tool in establishing the terms and conditions of employment, which you can amend from time to time.
Explore This IssueJuly 2012
The employee handbook establishes important procedures governing the keeping of work hours, tabulation of wages, administration of paid and unpaid leave, lines of reporting by which employees can make their concerns known—including complaints of harassment and discrimination—and the process by which the employer will investigate and resolve those concerns. The handbook sets standards regarding confidentiality, work rules and attendance requirements. More generally, the employee handbook lends a sense of predictability to the employer’s expectations and serves the strong interest of making employees feel as if they are being treated fairly. Depending on the state, established policies regarding disability accommodation, discrimination and harassment, wage and hour compliance and leave administration are often required by law.
Job descriptions are frequently overlooked when new practices are focused on setting up shop. The job description is the employer’s outline of the qualifications and skills necessary for the position, the essential duties and the physical requirements of the job. A good job description is normative insofar as it makes expectations clear to the employee. It also spells out important information regarding wage and hour compliance (e.g., is this an exempt or non-exempt position?), disability accommodation and workers’ compensation (e.g., what job duties can we eliminate so that an employee with a physical limitation can remain at work?). In many employment-related lawsuits, the central dispute involves the job’s basic expectations. The job description is your opportunity to document the objective requirements of the position.
While it is best practice for job evaluations to be done in person, all that remains from those meetings years later is the written account of how the employee performed in the past. Think critically about how well your job evaluation form captures an employee’s job performance. From a basic standpoint, everyone appreciates tangible feedback of performance in the workplace. Ask yourself: Does the job evaluation form speak clearly to your employees? Does it provide a platform to point out examples of jobs well done as well as areas that require improvement? Does it provide an opportunity to outline tangible next steps by which the employee can reach an appropriate level of performance?