The Top Five Don'ts of Employee Handbooks.

Author:DeMaria, Alfred T.

Haven't updated that employee handbook in a while? Need to review it to make sure it is accurate? What policies actually need to be in a handbook?

These are some of the questions that insurance industry executives regularly face--or at least should face--concerning their handbooks. In this day and age of regulatory oversight, it is more important than ever to make periodic, frequent updates. It is important to get the handbook as close to "right" as possible.

So what needs to be included in an employee handbook and what doesn't? This eblast recommends some basic "don'ts" and a subsequent one will recommend more basic "do's." There are more than five don'ts of employee handbooks, but these are just some of the most important.

  1. Don't make your handbook a contract.

    The handbook should make clear that it is not a contract. If the handbook is not a contract, then the employee cannot sue the employer for breach of contract if the employer does not comply with its terms. The disclaimer that the handbook is not a contract should be clear and conspicuous. There are some specific state law requirements on this point that must be consulted. Likewise, this disclaimer should confirm the employment at will relationship--that is, either the employer or the employer may terminate the employee relationship at any time, with or without cause and with or without advance notice.

  2. Don't include restrictive covenants (i.e., non-compete, non-solicit, non-disclosure) as part of the employee handbook.

    Since the handbook is not a contract, then do not include restrictive covenants as part of the employee handbook. If you want to have the ability to sue the employee for breaching those covenants, then don't include the restrictive covenants as part of the employee handbook, or the employer opens itself up to the argument that the restrictive covenants are unenforceable because of the disclaimers that the handbook is not a contract. Create a separate agreement; don't rely on a handbook provision.

  3. Don't make your handbook too long.

    One of the points of a handbook is for an employee to actually read it! In essence, the handbook is meant to convey information to employees. And like most things, the longer the handbook, the less likely an...

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