Is Your Handbook Achieving What it Should?
Much has changed in employment legislation, and likely, so have your practices… has your handbook kept up?
As 2018 rolls into the final stretch, think back over the last year. How much change did your organization undergo, either strategically or operationally? Did you define or refine your vision, mission and/or values? Did you implement new standard operating procedures? Did your organizational and reporting structure change? Perhaps you merged with or acquired a new company, or moved towards outsourcing one of your departments? Have you introduced a new performance program, benefits offering or RRSP matching program, or alter your vacation scheduling procedures? Have you had repeated challenges with employees not filling out their time cards properly, claiming overtime without approval, or not understanding your travel guidelines?
Are there practices that were put in place that simply don’t make sense anymore? And perhaps most importantly, does your handbook align with who you are, your culture, values and goals?
Now consider all of the provincial and federal legislative changes impacting the workplace that occurred in just the last year, only some of which include:
- Changes to legislation under the Employment Standards Act in Alberta, BC & Ontario (e.g. extensions to compassionate care and parental leaves, changes to overtime)
- Changes to legislation under the Canada Labour Code (e.g. Bill c-63)
- Legalization of recreational cannabis
- Mandatory breach reporting regulations under PIPEDA
Based on the above, are you confident your employee handbook is achieving what it’s meant to? Namely, to uphold your culture and values; be a one-stop shop of current, relevant and organizationally aligned information; provide additional terms and conditions of employment; and protect your organization.
Many employers feel their bases are covered because they developed an employee handbook a few years back (in some cases, several years), had their employees sign off on it, and send out update emails whenever something changes. The challenge, however, is that the filed employee acknowledgements aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, if significant changes have taken place since then. And, as outlined above, in terms of legislation alone, they have. Furthermore, email updates neither ensure the content is being read/understood nor give you the necessary sign-off for important terms and conditions.
So, what’s the best course of action?
Unless a significant policy or procedure change occurs mid-year and critically must be updated in writing earlier, handbooks are ideally updated only once annually. The ideal scenario is getting your employees together in person (either altogether, or in small groups led by their managers) to go over the updates, do a refresher on existing content, provide new books, and have them sign off on new acknowledgements. Making it interactive will anchor the learning. This not only provides an opportunity for all employees to hear the same message at the same time, but also allows them to benefit from the questions/input of their co-workers. It can (and should) also be a fun team-building opportunity.
In summary, as the year draws to a close, this is a great time to ensure your handbook is culturally aligned, legislatively solid, up-to-date on your practices, and provides all of the necessary information it’s meant to.