United States: HR Answers: Creating A Great Employee Handbook

Last Updated: February 18 2014
Article by Jennifer B. Sandberg

Given the myriad government regulations applicable to credit unions and the need for strict financial controls, a credit union might perceive that an employee handbook is low on its list of priorities. However, no credit union can function without a strong team of employees and, oddly enough, employees like to know the rules. No matter the industry, no matter the company size, any company with even a few employees benefits from an up-to-date, lawful employee handbook.

An employee handbook serves many purposes. It communicates the credit union's rules and performance standards to employees, encourages employees to behave in a certain way, helps ensure employees are treated consistently, publicizes the employment benefits your credit union offers and maximizes the credit union's ability to win unemployment claims and lawsuits.

A well-written, lawful employee handbook has no downsides; it provides a credit union with all the flexibility necessary to address innumerable possibilities when it comes to employee actions and inactions. If you ever believed an employee handbook could do more harm than good, you'd be doing your credit union a great disservice because those days are gone.

Employees Want to Know the Rules and Performance Requirements

Even though employees won't always follow the rules, they do like to know the rules. Employees — both good and bad — like knowledge of what conduct is expected by the credit union and what repercussions to expect if they fail to follow the rules.

An employee handbook is primarily a rule book. Written correctly, a handbook allows a company to address a wide variety of rule violations without limiting the credit union's ability to respond on a case-by-case basis as necessary. For this reason, we generally suggest that most employers avoid a formal, progressive discipline policy wherein a list of rule violations is associated with a particular "punishment." Most credit unions are much better off training managers to respond appropriately and in a timely manner to employee rule violations and/or poor performance rather than simply imposing disciplinary measures.

Employees Need to Behave in a Certain Way

Your credit union handbook should tell employees what your credit union expects from them, not only to avoid disciplinary action, but to succeed.

For example, the employee handbook should tell an employee how to: request time off, inform the appropriate manager about possible harassment or discrimination, keep a time record, report possible theft, dress in an appropriate manner, refrain from drug and alcohol use, maintain confidential information, interact via social media, use various electronic resources, comply with applicable laws, etc.

Employees Should be Treated Consistently (And They Want to be Treated That Way)

Various managers working in the same or even remote branch locations ideally will respond to similar rule and performance violations in a similar manner. A well-written handbook tailored to the manner in which your credit union does business helps to ensure this desired consistency.

While a handbook should not be a manager's "instruction book" on how to manage or deal with every conceivable problem or issue, it should provide a framework for managers to follow in dealing with various circumstances.  

Do remember, however, the primary purpose of a handbook is to provide instructions to employees — not to serve as a "manager's guide." To the extent that your credit union uses a manager's guide or believes such a guide is a good idea, that guide should be a separate (but
well-coordinated) document from the employee handbook.

The Credit Union Should Sell the Benefits it Offers

Credit unions spend a great deal of money on each and every employee in ways employees often do not see or appreciate. An employee handbook is an excellent way for a credit union to take credit for all that it does for its employees.

Without providing a great deal of detail that could become outdated quickly, an employee handbook should list all the benefits the credit union provides at no cost to employees (for example, workers' compensation in most states); those the credit union subsidizes (for example, many types of insurance benefits); and those it makes available for purchase at reduced rates due to the credit union's group purchasing power (for example, supplemental insurance).

Additionally, a handbook should include the various types of paid and unpaid time off or leave offered to employees — even if such leave is mandated by the government.

The Credit Union Wants to Win Unemployment Claims

In most states, winning an unemployment claim for a terminated employee requires proof that the terminated employee was on notice of a certain rule (or rules) and had been warned that violating the rule would lead to disciplinary action up to and including immediate termination.

A well-written employee handbook lays the foundation for a successful unemployment defense. The page of the handbook containing the applicable policy, as well as the employee's signed acknowledgement page, should be the first step of any unemployment paperwork submission for a rule violation or poor performance termination.

The Credit Union Wants to Win Lawsuits

Many employment-based lawsuits hinge on consistent treatment of employees and/or ensuring employees were on notice of important credit union policies and procedures. A well-written employee handbook that reflects a credit union's actual practices serves both of these purposes.  

The employee handbook and the employee's signed acknowledgement form are almost always exhibits in a lawsuit and can help a credit union win a lawsuit. Imagine a jury looking at your employee handbook. What does your current employee handbook "say" about your credit union? What image does it portray?

Is the handbook out of date? Does the handbook contain unlawful provisions or provisions that are no longer followed by the credit union? Does the handbook look "homemade" or cobbled together from multiple sources and documents?

Does the handbook contain inconsistencies? Could the handbook be a better reflection of your credit union? If you don't think a jury would be impressed with the quality of your handbook, consider revising and updating your handbook right away.

The Credit Union Needs to Keep the Handbook Current and Relevant

Maybe your credit union has taken many of the steps outlined in this article – only it did so five, 10 or 20 years ago. If so, it is time for a comprehensive update. Not only do the laws change, but the issues change.

If it has been a while since your handbook was reviewed, it may not cover social media, personal electronic devices, texting, e-cigarettes, tattoos, piercings or other emerging issues employers face. Likewise, many policies could be out of date and no longer reflect best practices. The credit union should consider its handbook a "living" document that is updated and revised frequently to be a consistently accurate reflection of its strong employment-related practices.

Important Considerations for any Employee Handbook

Your handbook needs to reflect compliance with applicable federal, state and local laws related to the employment relationship. This does not mean every law needs to be specifically addressed and reiterated in detail in the handbook. Rather, the handbook should not conflict with any applicable law and should contain a clear statement that the company intends to comply with all applicable laws.  

Your handbook should be tailored to the employment practices at your credit union and should clearly reflect how your credit union does business.  Copying another credit union's handbook or just adopting a handbook you find online — even from a very reputable source —  may do more harm than good.    

Your handbook is a reflection of the credit union overall, as well as a reflection of how much the credit union values its employees. Handbooks that contain typos, are copied askew, are out of date, contain another credit union's name, contain policies that don't apply to your credit union in whole or in part, and look sloppy or unprofessional send a message that the company doesn't really care about its employees.

For the investment of a few dollars per employee, any credit union can publish a well-edited, well-written, employment law attorney-vetted, professional-looking employee handbook.

The handbook can be published in hard copy or online. Publishing the handbook online saves printing costs and is just as effective as a printed copy, as long as all employees have very easy and private access to the online handbook and the credit union obtains proof that each employee "has read or will read" the employee handbook.  

In the end, even the very best handbook fails to provide a benefit to the credit union if employees do not have easy access to it and if the credit union cannot "prove" the employee received the handbook and understood that he or she was required to abide by the handbook. To have such proof, a credit union needs a signed acknowledgement form for a printed handbook or electronic acknowledgement receipt for an online handbook.

By creating a custom handbook for your credit union that complies with the points listed above, both the credit union and its employees benefit.

This article was also featured on www.cumanagement.org

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Jennifer B. Sandberg
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions