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Are these 5 things missing from your Employee Handbook?

Updating or completing an employee handbook can be a big project – one that you might be eager to cross off your to-do list.

You may have covered all your top-line priority items but before you move on, we’ve identified five important but commonly overlooked items that you don’t want to leave out of your employee handbook. After all, this is your opportunity to make a first impression with new hires and set the tone for their experience working with your company and your team.

  1. Social Media Policy

One of the telltale signs of an out-of-date (or out of touch) company policy is when a section on social media is missing from the handbook. Use of social media can be a minefield for employees and employers if a policy is not properly defined.

This section of your handbook should at the very least address the use of social media at work. In some workplaces, social media sites are blocked. In other cases, there are no controls in place. Either way, keep in mind that employees can be using social media sites on their personal smart phones.

You should also address the use of social media outside of work as it pertains to representing or talking about your company. For instance, clarify whether disclaimers are encouraged on social media profiles where one has identified themselves as an employee of your company. Some twitter users include a statement in their profile bios such as “views are my own and not my employer’s.”

Also consider whether employees are allowed – or even encouraged – to participate in online forums or discussions about the company, or to respond to comments online from customers. In the hospitality industry, your loyal and devoted staff may feel compelled to respond to snarky customer reviews on sites like Facebook, Yelp or Tripadvisor. Provide clear guidelines on how employees should conduct themselves in these scenarios.

  1. Employee Recognition and Rewards

Employee recognition and rewards programs can be extremely motivating and exciting to a new hire. As you introduce employees to your company for the first time, it can be extremely powerful to demonstrate that recognizing achievements is not only best practice at your company – it’s policy. Set your new hire up for success from day one by giving them something to aspire to. It’s also a great way to showcase company culture throughout the contents of your company handbook.

Employee recognition programs can be as simple as an “employee of the month” program, or can be more complex such as annual awards events or ongoing programs which allow employees to send recognition to other employees as thanks for going above and beyond.

  1. Mental Health

It seems like every day employers are hearing sobering new statistics about the impact of mental health issues in the workplace. It is one of the leading causes of short-term and long-term absences and costs hundreds of billions annually in lost productivity to employers in the US. Managing these issues proactively is essential to mitigating risk and providing a safe and healthy workplace to all hires – and that starts with the employee handbook.

While most employee handbooks talk about health, safety and accommodations, progressive employers are now specifically addressing mental health in company handbooks as well.

This may include policies regarding substance use, suicide prevention and mental health first aid as well as any wellness programs offered by the company such as meditation rooms, counseling services, stress reduction training and of course, employee assistance programs.

  1. Green Workplace Policy

Too often overlooked, an employee handbook is an excellent place to make an impactful statement about your company’s commitment to sustainability and green initiatives.

Company policies around green initiatives can be as simple as recycling, minimizing waste, properly disposing of items, turning off equipment not in use, etc. Your organization may have a more detailed “green workplace policy” that you can make reference to here. If not, start by identifying three to five best practices that your workplace can uphold. Bad environmental habits can be hard to break, so including this in the handbook will ensure that new hires comply from day one.

  1. Dealing with Allergens

Just as many schools are going allergen free, workplaces are increasingly following suit, banning top food culprits like peanuts and shellfish. In addition to concern for employees with allergies, many businesses need to have policies in place for dealing with customers who have allergies. This is especially critical in the restaurant industry where food establishments can be held legally responsible for anaphylactic reactions as a result of consuming foods from their establishment. Other hospitality businesses such as spas, hotels and event venues need to be aware of these risks as well.

A thorough policy may include the location of epi-pens or other life-saving medications at the workplace (if applicable), or what employees should do in the event of an emergency.

Food allergies are not the only area of concern to address here. Many individuals are also highly sensitive to fragrances. Therefore rules around use of perfumes, colognes and scented cosmetics should be addressed in your employee handbook.