An employee handbook acts as a clear channel of procedural communication between management and staff. As certain situations arise, knowing the rules can prevent surprise, confusion and resentment on both sides of the table.
Regardless of your not-for-profit organization's size, it should provide employees a handbook that is clear, up to date and complete.
To keep it current, give your employee handbook a tune-up at least once a year. Be mindful of not only changes to internal policies over the past year, but also revisions to federal, state and municipal employment laws. Only include those changes that are relevant to your organization. In many instances, it will be far too burdensome to include regulatory changes in all jurisdictions, but it should be clear which are applicable to your organization.
Include Health Care Plan Information
To keep your handbook in compliance with current requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), revisions may be needed. For example, if "part-time" employees are excluded from the company health care plan, that should be noted.
In addition, if the definition of "part-time" employee is different for health benefits than for other benefits, you should also make that distinction in the handbook. Another example is if your organization chooses to use the look-back periods allowed by the regulation. This policy should also be disclosed in the handbook. You should also be mindful of your health care and benefits policies based on the recent changes in federal law permitting same-sex marriage and partner relationships. It may be beneficial to disclose these policies as well in the handbook.
Wellness plans are becoming an increasingly popular policy in not-for-profit organizations' medical plans and should be outlined in your handbook. If you have a plan, be sure to stay on top of ACA wellness program regulations. For instance, be mindful of laws that may affect the design and administration of wellness programs, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Keep an Eye on Protections for Pregnant Women
Last June, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA, S. 1512, H.R. 2654) was introduced in Congress with bipartisan support for the first time. This legislation would provide pregnant women with job protections similar to those available under the ADA. These protections can include limits on heavy lifting, assistance with manual labor and access to places to sit.
Follow Legislative and Regulatory Trends
Besides current laws and regulations, a prudent employer will keep an eye on proposed federal legislation and Department of Labor (DOL) regulations that, if enacted, will affect employment law and, ultimately, the policies in your employee handbook. Currently, you should follow developments in connection with:
- The Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act, a bill that would allow employees to take leave for care of a same-sex spouse or partner, parent-in-law, adult child sibling, grandchild or grandparent, if that person has a serious medical condition;
- The Fair Credit Reporting Act, which could prohibit employers from using consumer credit reports to make hiring or job-related decisions or obtain consumer or investigative reports on job candidates; and
- The DOL rule changing the overtime exemption, which could require employers to re-classify certain workers as non-exempt from overtime, depending on their salary and duties.
Consider all current developments as the new president takes office in January 2017. A bevy of legislative and regulatory change could be possible in his or her early days in office.
Your Attorney's Advice
A finely tuned employee handbook can help protect your not-for-profit organization against a range of employee misunderstandings and liabilities. Have your attorney review your handbook regularly to ensure that important legal and regulatory changes are not overlooked.
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.