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2021 Employee Handbook Updates

By January 16, 2021January 19th, 2021No Comments

It’s that time of year! Time to review and revamp your policies, procedures, and your employee handbook.

Along with your new year’s resolutions, you should consider this a good time to resolve to update your organization’s policies and procedures. This past year, like many previous years, brought many new changes to the employment landscape.

Below are the top 5 policy areas to review and perhaps revise:

  1. Leaves of absence – Many states have continued to add paid sick leave to their roster of mandates that employers must abide by. Along with the now expired Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), states have adopted more expansive leave laws that are expected to be in effect through at least the first quarter of 2021. Although the latest coronavirus relief package did not extend the FFCRA, the law gives employers the option to continue to provide paid leave to employees dealing with COVID and extended the refundable employer payroll tax credit. With the change of administration in the White House, it is expected that there may be new federal paid leave mandates coming our way.
  1. OSHA –2020 brought a tremendous amount of attention to health and safety, from washing our hands, wearing a mask, how we clean and sanitize the workplace, taking employees temperature, and whether we mandate vaccines. OSHA has put into place clear expectations for employers and the expectations of providing a safe and healthy workplace for employees. Consider beefing up your compliance and reporting requirements to ensure workers know their rights and responsibilities when at work. If they see a violation, they are encouraged to report on health and safety concerns with no fear of retaliation. Further, 14 states, including Oregon, Nevada, and Virginia have adopted very comprehensive worker safety protections and guidelines. Check here for further information.
  1. Marijuana and drug testing – We have reported on the many states who have legalized medicinal and recreational marijuana and have suggested that you may want to review and revise your drug-testing policies and practices. Of course, if you are mandated by federal funds, contracts, and grants, or run safety sensitive programs, you should continue to abide by your Drug-Free Workplace policies. If you are not bound by a Drug-Free Workplace mandate and you typically drug-test upon hire, you may wish to reconsider your current policy and practice as more organizations are removing the test for metabolites in view of their states changes in the legalization of marijuana.
  1. Telecommuting – Think back to March of 2020 when many states and cities issued stay-at-home orders and millions of employees began working from home. Telework, telecommuting, and work-from-home became part of our new normal as we tried to stop the spread of COVID-19. In some states and cities, those restrictions have not lifted. Even when COVID-19 hits our rearview mirror, the concept of working from home for millions of employees is probably here to stay. Developing strong clear policies on what that looks like in the future will be very important for consistency, expectations, and success.
  1. COVID-19 related issues and policies (even if they are temporary) – Some of this may fall into the categories above, however, you may wish to have a COVID-19 policy page which is referenced in the specific sections above. For example, under Leaves of Absence, you might say, “for COVID-19 specific leaves, please see page X or section Y.” In your COVID-19 section you may want to address several areas including:
    1. Leave of Absence
    2. Contact or exposure to COVID
    3. Vaccinations
    4. Hygiene, physical distancing, and other CDC/OSHA recommendations
    5. Contact tracing

As always, ensure every employee receives a copy of the updated handbook as well as an acknowledgment form to sign attesting they have received a copy, have read it, and understand their responsibility to the contents and agree to follow and uphold the policies of your organization. Make sure that the employee has a copy of what they signed and the original goes into their personnel file.

Remember, members of 501(c) Agency Trust and 501(c) HR Services subscribers have unlimited access to HR Services. Contact us at for any questions you may have regarding this subject or any other HR situation.

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