Employment law is a scary term for a start-up or new small business owner. Everyone has heard horror stories about law suits. Even employers with the best of intentions can easily end up in trouble when it comes to following the rules. Many employers rush to create Employee Policies or purchase form Employee Handbooks with the hopes that having policies is enough to ward off the law. However, an employer who is not even sure about what rules might apply to the company should be very careful about defining workplace policies. Before running out and getting a comprehensive Employee Handbook that tries to cover every potential issue, keep some of the following thoughts in mind:
First, it is never good to put a policy in writing that you don't ever intend to follow. Even though most employers retain the right to amend policies at any time, employees look to your company's policies to determine expectations. If you are not sure which holidays will be paid, don't make promises.
Second, if you are not sure what the law is regarding a particular issue (such as overtime, vacation, and/or pay deductions), do you really want a detailed policy covering that issue? Sometimes no policy is better than a wring policy. Putting a non-compliant policy in writing could be a pretty big admission if a lawsuit arises.
Third, companies evolve and so should their policies. Having a huge book of policies that is signed and then filed away, never to be seen or heard from again seems pretty pointless. Make sure that changes to your company's culture can be reflected in your company's handbook.
Finally, there is such thing as too many details. An Employee Handbook should not be a reference of potential employment law claims for an employee to look up. I've seen handbooks that seem to be giving legal advice to employees. Does that sound like something you want to do? Your handbook should be a reflection of your business and the general expectations between the company and the employees.