New year, new employee handbook
For HR professionals, the New Year is a time of year defined by prepping for the upcoming tax season and getting updated on legal changes for the year. It’s also prime time to revisit your organization’s employee handbook to ensure it’s in compliance with current employment laws, and aligned with present workplace policies.
It’s always been best practice to review your organization’s handbook at the start of each new year—and even more so during this particular moment in history. The COVID-19 pandemic has redefined how people work, and many employers have had to re-imagine long-held policies, particularly regarding remote work arrangements and sick leave protocol. If this is the case at your organization, it’s critical that your employee handbook be updated to reflect these changes.
Here are some considerations when updating your employee handbook for 2023:
Get clear on remote work arrangements
The pandemic proved that (in industries that don’t physically require work to be completed in person,) employees are happier and perhaps even more productive when given the option to work remotely instead of in an office.
Against the backdrop of “The Great Resignation,” many employers have been scrambling to make their organizations more appealing to current employees and job seekers.
In 2022, many workplaces permanently adopted either fully remote or hybrid work arrangements. In fact, an October 2022 survey from Datapeople found that the number of remote jobs has increased five-fold since 2019. Just 15% of workplaces don’t offer any remote or hybrid options—down from 50% in 2019.
If your organization is one of the many that have adapted new remote or hybrid work policies, your employee handbook should be updated to reflect these changes.
Define your expectations for remote employees
A robust remote work policy should clarify which roles are eligible to work remotely, and clearly define remote work expectations as well as communication procedures. Your policy should state that organizational rules and regulations continue to apply to offsite locations and should define expectations and procedures regarding virtual meetings—like dress codes, or requirements to turn on one’s camera during meetings.
Finally, remote work policies should answer the following logistical questions:
- Are employees permitted to use their own technology when working from home?
- Are there certain situations when remote employees may be required to be in the office?
- Do employees have to check in with their manager before signing off for the day?
- Will employees be reimbursed for internet and cell phone usage while working remotely?
Fine-tuning your organization’s remote work policies and recording them in the employee handbook will ensure a smooth onboarding experience for new employees, and help current employees thrive outside the office.
Double-check changes to your state’s employment laws
New employment laws often take effect on the first day of the year.
Going into 2023, HR managers should review employment law updates in the state(s) that their organization conducts work, and update employee handbooks accordingly.
In 2022, many states passed new laws regarding worker’s compensation and leave. For example:
- In California, a law allowing employees to claim workers’ compensation if they were presumed to contract COVID-19 while at work was extended until January 2024. Also, in California, employers in 2023 will be required to provide up to 5 days of unpaid bereavement leave for employees within three months of the death of a family member.
- In New York, an amendment to the state’s Paid Family Leave law will take effect in 2023, allowing employees to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid leave to care for siblings with serious health conditions.
- In Illinois, employers in 2023 will be required to provide unpaid leave for absences resulting from a pregnancy loss, unsuccessful in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment, failed adoption or surrogacy, or another diagnosis that impacts pregnancy.
- In Maine, an amendment to the state’s Wage and Hour law taking effect in 2023 requires employers with 11 or more employees to pay employees for all unused vacation time upon cessation of their employment.
- In Michigan, small employers (those with less than 10 employees) must offer 40 hours of paid sick leave and 32 hours of unpaid leave beginning in February 2023. Large employers (employers with more than 10 employees) must provide 72 hours of paid sick leave.
Consider a more flexible sick leave policy
The ongoing pandemic and rise of Long COVID have prompted many employers to offer more flexible sick and paid time off policies.
It’s generally recommended that employers implement policies that discourage employees with COVID-19 symptoms from coming to work. In 2023, your organization’s sick leave policies should be conscious of COVID-19, as well as still-applicable state laws regarding notifying employees of COVID-19 exposure.
In 2023, potential updates regarding sick leave may include:
- Providing employee advances on future sick leave
- Allowing employees to take sick leave without providing a COVID-19 test or doctor’s note
- Permitting employees to donate sick leave days to one another
- Allowing employees to use sick leave to go to healthcare appointments
Modernizing your organization’s marijuana policy
While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, medical and recreational use is now legal in 26 states and decriminalized in many others.
A handful of states including Connecticut, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island have policies in place to protect employees who use marijuana for recreational purposes. In these states, workplace marijuana policy may mirror alcohol policies allowing employees to participate in off-the-clock use as long as it doesn’t affect their work or workplace.
“Employers need to get out in front of this trend and make a decision as to how they want to treat those who test positive and how they want to use testing so they treat everyone fairly,” Tyler T. Rasmussen, a partner at labor and employment firm Fisher Phillips, told HRDive.
Be sure to update current employees on any changes
Employers and HR leaders are responsible for giving employees ample time to review and understand any changes to the employee handbook. Employers may consider hosting an all-hands-on-deck meeting (virtual is fine!) in order to highlight any policy changes and give employees the opportunity to ask questions.
After the handbook is published and distributed, employers should give employees time to review and sign a receipt acknowledging their responsibility to comply with the new policies.
If it’s time to update your organization’s handbook, give us a call or email us at HR Services.
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The information contained in this article is not a substitute for legal advice or counsel and has been pulled from multiple sources.