As employee handbooks should be reviewed annually, now is a good time to make it part of your regular practice

As those of you for whom we’ve developed and/or updated employee handbooks know, we recommend that you review them on an annual basis, or otherwise regularly and consistently.

Not only are there legislative changes that may impact your policies, as well as a pandemic that has impacted workplace safety protocol (and for many, their remote working practices), there have also, undoubtedly, been changes within your organization over the last year or so.

2021 Employment-related legislation updates

Below is a quick overview of the updates that have occurred within legislation this year and/or are upcoming, and that, depending on your industry, may need to be reflected in your handbooks.

  • Pay Equity Act came into effect for federally regulated employers (excluding Indigenous governing bodies) with more than 10 employees. The Act requires that employers take proactive steps to ensure they’re providing equal pay for work of equal value. Accordingly, pay transparency regulations under the Employment Equity Act were introduced with the intent to address wage gaps experienced by women, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities
  • CLC harassment & violence prevention legislation – Refer to our posts from last year, part one and part two
  • Employment Standards Act of BC – Legislation indicating that employees who are on leave related to COVID-19 are entitled to paid leave for up to 3 days  
  • WorkSafe BC safety protocol related to communicable disease prevention – Many organizations are adding a more general Pandemic & Communicable Diseases policy to their handbooks

Pandemic-related and initiated updates

In addition to specific safety protocols, many organizations are rolling out policies that outline their expectations related to COVID-19 vaccines. Accordingly, the pandemic prompted many employers to rethink how and where they work, resulting in remote and hybrid work policies. Given the need to do so quickly, in the early days of the pandemic, you may not have outlined specific parameters at the time. In making remote work an ongoing practice, we recommend developing and including clear expectations within your employee handbooks.

When and how should you update handbooks?

While we do recommend regular reviews, we don’t recommend revising, adding to, deleting from your employee handbook every single time something changes – unless it’s something significant. Doing so is administratively onerous, makes it difficult to keep track of versions, and challenging to communicate (and/or can be easily missed).

Rather, doing so annually or every 18 months (for example), allows you to ensure that those changes actually should be made (i.e., aren’t reactive to a solitary event). It also allows you to communicate the updates to your teams (ideally in all-staff or team meetings) and get sign-off on the updated document. It also prevents you from having to start from scratch and/or go through a lengthy and time-consuming process once your handbook is five or more years old, for example.

Finally, while the end or beginning of the new year might not be the one-year anniversary of your last review and/or initial roll-out, for many organizations, this is a good time to update, as it helps set the stage for the year ahead.

Let us help ensure your handbook is ready for 2022!