New Laws Are Coming. Is Your Employee Handbook Up-to-Date?

michigan_employee_handbookMany employers are scrambling to adjust their internal policies and handbooks to comply with the new Michigan Paid Sick Leave Act, the requirements of which employers in the state must address by March 29, 2019.

Properly drafted and updated employee handbooks are crucial to reduce liability and inform workers of important changes to internal procedures, standards, and rights. Too often, companies don’t make review of employee handbooks a priority, but it should be done annually to maintain handbooks’ effectiveness and comply with employment laws.

Why Have an Employee Handbook?

Although companies are not legally required to have employee handbooks, many employers have found them to be useful for a wide variety of reasons. They not only help employers avoid litigation, but they also foster a sense of fairness among employees that, in turn, helps morale and establishes clear guidelines in the workplace. Additionally, the federal Family & Medical Leave Act and other regulations require that companies provide written information to their workers, and handbooks are an efficient way to comply with these regulations.

Tips for a Useful Employee Handbook

First and foremost, handbooks should be clear, concise, and reasonable. A vaguely drafted handbook may lead to messy litigation for years to come. Employers should avoid cookie-cutter templates; instead, every handbook should be drafted and updated for the particular needs of each organization in compliance with Michigan and federal law. To put it simply, handbooks need to be meticulously written, routinely reviewed, and their limitations must be understood.

A properly drafted handbook will advise employees of the standards in the workplace while protecting the interest of the employer, and employers should exercise caution when preparing their handbooks. Seeking advice from an attorney is always wise. This is particularly true in Michigan – as an “at-will employment” state, courts have held that promises or statements in an employee handbook may create an employment contract.

Critical Employee Handbook Provisions

Some common handbook sections that need updating are anti-harassment policies, references to time off policies including Michigan’s Paid Sick Leave Act, employee classifications and at-will status, employee benefits, discipline, and separation policies – especially if employees are paid commissions.

Employee rights have received a lot of attention in Michigan lately, and we predict there will be even more changes to come in 2019. With the political shift in Michigan, employee rights will be at the top of the agenda, so check your handbook to make sure it has been recently updated. For questions regarding compliance or drafting, please contact a member of Kreis Enderle’s employment practice group.

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