The rules and norms governing the workplace are changing and employee manuals need to reflect the shifts that are happening. Having well-written and up-to-date employee policies is more than a good business practice. It also helps put you on firm legal footing. Nowadays, this means addressing gender equality issues, remote working arrangements, technology use, and drug and gun law matters. Let’s take a closer look at the company policies every conscientious business should cover.

Building a Foundation: What to Include

First, the basics. At a minimum, your written company policies should cover certain fundamentals, such as:
  • Employee attendance and paid time off (including accrual or payouts of unused time
  • Sick leave (including what your business will do if there’s a major outbreak or pandemic like the influenza virus or most recently the COVID-19 crisis).
  • Company holidays (paid or unpaid)
  • Bereavement leave
  • Family and medical leave (if applicable)
  • Regular and overtime pay
  • Working hours and breaks
  • Dress codes (if applicable)
  • Rules of conduct (such as taking personal calls or using cell phones)
Specify the consequences for policy infractions and how to request time off or apply for benefits. In addition to these basic policies, you’ll want to make sure your company policies address some important workplace trends.

Trending Policy Issues to Address

Consider adding policies in these 10 key areas:

1) BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Policy

In today’s workplace, many employees use their own cell phones, tablets and laptops both on and off the job. While allowing employees to bring their own devices can reduce costs, it also creates potential security and legal compliance concerns. Protect your company with a well-written policy that outlines the boundaries or security features you require, as well as procedures when employment ends.
For your BYOD policy, include a statement that “off-the-clock business activities (such as checking emails on a phone) are prohibited based on ‘hours worked’ rules under the FLSA.

2) Remote Workers Policy

These days it’s common for some employees to work from home or remotely. But it may not be appropriate for all workers. Be sure you have a policy that outlines who is eligible for remote working arrangements and what the limitations and expectations are. Ensure your policy avoids discrimination and enables you to end the ability to work remotely if necessary.

3) Social Media Policy

Protect your company’s reputation and legal status by creating a social media policy that empowers your employees to share messages in a positive way while avoiding potential problems. For example, outline what is permitted (such as sharing new product photos or images from a company event) as well as what is not (such as pre-launch details, internal strategies or controversial political comments). Establish when social media for personal use is allowed, what information is considered confidential, the brand guidelines for discussing company products or services, and rules of etiquette.

4) Confidentiality Policy

A company confidentiality policy helps protect customer data, trade secrets, procedures and information about new products or services. Confidentiality policies might cover personal or proprietary data, prototypes, software, drawings, systems, methods, internal and external communications, and test results. In sensitive industries, you may need to ask employees to sign a confidentiality, non-disclosure or non-compete agreement.

5) Drug and Alcohol Policy

With new laws in many states that legalize marijuana for medicinal or recreational use, your drug use policies may need updating. A drug-free workplace policy should strictly prohibit the sale, possession and use of illegal drugs or alcohol when an employee is on the job. It should specify the types of forbidden substances and conduct as well as the consequences for violating the policy. If you have any drug-testing procedures in place, such as random testing, for-cause testing or post-accident testing, be sure you define them clearly.
More than 30 states allow medical marijuana use and 11 states, plus Washington D.C., permit recreational use.

6) Weapons/Workplace Violence Policy

Even in states where concealed-carry weapons are legal, employers can prohibit employees from carrying weapons into the workplace premises or making threats against other employees. In fact, under OSHA and various state laws, you are obligated to protect employees from workplace violence. Be specific in your policy and define what actions are restricted — from verbal threats to shoving — as well as the types of weapons not allowed on work premises, such as knives, guns or other firearms. Keep in mind that, in many states, firearms are allowed in locked vehicles in the parking lot, regardless of workplace restrictions.

7) Anti-Discrimination/Anti-Harassment Policy

Several federal laws require employers to protect workers from workplace harassment and discrimination. Today, this goes beyond the traditional language that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin or gender, and it may include sexual orientation, gender identity or age as well. Make sure your employees know that discrimination is illegal when you’re hiring, providing job assignments or offering promotions. Clearly define the types of actions that are considered discrimination or harassment (including sexual harassment) and what your policies for infractions are. Include specific provisions for how to report behavior that violates your policies and a statement that ensures reporting such behavior is protected.

8) Workplace Accommodations for Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), requires companies with 15 or more employees to provide certain accommodations for workers with disabilities to allow them to perform their jobs. Make sure your company policy defines disabilities and states your intent to comply with all applicable laws under the ADA. Spell out how requests for accommodations should be made, including what information you require (such as any medical records) and to whom requests should be submitted.

9) Disaster or Severe Weather Policy

Severe weather or natural disasters, ranging from hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods and fires, can happen nearly everywhere. Be sure you have a policy to let employees know what to expect in case of an emergency. Detail how you will communicate instructions and what the chain of command would be if your main office is closed.

10) Family Leave Policy

A family leave policy doesn’t just consist of what you’d like to offer your staff — you also need comply with federal and state regulations. When creating your family leave policies, it’s important to avoid gender bias and offer leave equally to all sexes.
Does your parental leave policy avoid gender discrimination? Today’s policies shouldn’t have different time-off allotments for male vs. female bonding of a new child.

Put Your Policies in Writing

Although federal and state laws don’t require you to create an employee handbook or put all your policies in writing, doing so makes sound legal sense. An online company policies or employee handbook tool is a smart way to keep your rules and guidelines accessible. In addition, outlining your company policies in writing helps:
  • establish boundaries and prevent misunderstandings
  • reduce HR time spent managing questions about what is allowed
  • create consistency in how requests and benefits are handled
  • provide legal protections if your practices are ever challenged in court

Organize Company Policies Easily

There’s no need to worry about being on top of trending policies with the Company Policies Smart App. Our HR experts consistently monitor and add new policies for your use so you’re always in the best position to address emerging issues. Plus, you have the ability to create, edit, distribute and keep track of the receipt of all policies for your business.
COVID-19 Related Company Policies
Now, more than ever, it’s critical to have updated company policies that reflect what is happening in the workplace due to the COVID-19 emergency — and to communicate those policies electronically to reach the most employees. To help businesses navigate this new landscape, we’ve added new COVID-19 related policies to our Company Policies Smart App covering:
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act
  • Infectious Disease
  • Business Travel
  • Social Distancing and Protective Personal Equipment
  • Screening and Testing
  • Business Travel
  • Sanitation and Hygiene
Key Takeaways
  • New laws focused on family leave, marijuana use and firearms may require you to update company policies.
  • Trends in new technology, device use, remote working and social media also require a closer look at confidentiality and other policies.
  • Company policy statements should be clear, specific and state consequences for infractions.
  • Make sure all employees receive original (and updated) company policies for total compliance and legal protection.