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More Tips on Writing Policy Manuals

September 1, 2000
Related Topics: Policies and Procedures, Featured Article
Here are several things to consider when putting together a policy manual:

  • Additional provisions in policy manuals include jury duty, leaves of absence, pay advances and deductions, drug and alcohol use, visitors, workplace cleanliness, dress codes, and suggestion programs. Two of the hot topics in manuals include privacy policies and use of email, voice mail, computers, software, internet and miscellaneous electronic systems usually included under the umbrella of technology policies.

  • Policy manual provisions are state-specific. Make sure you are aware of which state laws are included in policy-writing software, particularly when purchasing products over the Internet.

  • Be sure to include a revisions statement, reserving the right to change or revise the policy manual. Indicate who in the organization is authorized to approve such changes.

  • Prepare an Employee Acknowledgement Form to verify receipt of the policy manual and acknowledge the employee's obligation to read, understand and comply with the provisions contained in it.

  • Separate policy manuals may be necessary for a variety of reasons. Exempt and non-exempt employees, for example, may have different benefits and reporting requirements which cannot easily be distinguished within a single manual. Branch offices may have different rules and regulations within the same company.

  • There are pros and cons to providing a lot of detail on important procedures within the policy manual. It is an advantage to have a specific blueprint for everyone to follow, although the manual is not the only manner in which this can be accomplished. Policy manuals can be very damaging to the employer when published versions are inconsistent with actual practices. Grievance and internal complaint procedures are examples of provisions which can lead to serious problems if not followed consistently. If detailed procedures are to be included, they need to be diligently updated and communicated to appropriate supervisors.

  • Manuals may help small companies in court. The employment law firm of Littler Mendelson in San Francisco recently reported that a large number of start-ups do not institute formal employee relations policies until they hit the 100 to 300 employee range. Yet recent court decisions reflect favorably on the employer when corporate efforts are made to inform, train and take swift action in employee relations matters, confirming the importance of establishing written policies and procedures to minimize business risks.

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