The good news: Many small businesses recognize the importance of company policies informing employees of their rights and workplace rules.

The bad news: They’re not getting this information into the hands of every employee.

By law, you must notify employees of certain workplace rights, such as equal employment opportunity, the Family and Medical Leave Act (if applicable) and workplace safety under OSHA. Developing written company policies regarding these rights can help you maintain compliance, as well as provide critical legal protection should any questions arise later.

A policy manual is a vital reference tool for your workers … but only if they have easy access to the content. As a responsible employer, it’s up to you to distribute these policies, whether in printed format or online. It’s essential, too, to obtain acknowledgement that each employee received a copy of the policy or handbook.

Let’s take a closer look at some best practices for company policy distribution:

Get a signature – It’s a smart idea to have employees sign a statement acknowledging they have received and read your company policies. Although you’re not legally obligated to obtain signatures, doing so provides proof you informed employees of your company policies (including those requiring notification by law). This can reduce legal risk if there’s ever a dispute about whether or not an employee was aware of a policy.

Don’t force compliance — You might think it’s alright to issue a statement that employees will follow the policy, but this can be problematic. An employee may refuse to sign an acknowledgement if they don’t agree with something in the policy. Instead, ask that they acknowledge receipt of the policy, which is an important distinction. Keep in mind that refusing to sign the agreement doesn’t mean the employee is exempt from the policy. Employees are accountable for adhering to workplace rules and procedures.

Explain the policy — Having a manager or supervisor review policies with employees — or answer any questions in person – can improve understanding. Also make sure you let employees know that whether they sign or not, the policy still applies.

Callout: According to a survey by GuideSpark, 43% of millennial employees (and 30% of non-millennial employees) said they haven’t read most of their employee handbooks. More than one-third of employees didn’t even know where their handbooks were anymore. Electronic distribution and access can help counter this.

What if your employee won’t sign an acknowledgement of the policy?

You can’t force an employee to sign a policy acknowledgement, but you can certainly try to understand their objection. Discuss their concerns. For example, if an employee is troubled about wearing a uniform for religious reasons, consider an exception.

Also, it is usually within your rights to terminate an employee who refuses to sign the acknowledgement form (as most employment is at-will) ), but that might not be a wise approach. This could be especially damaging to your efforts to create a positive and constructive workplace. Keep in mind, too, that if you take this approach, you must do so with all employees, not just some.

Instead, you could:

  • Allow employees to acknowledge receipt of your policies without signing statements saying they will comply with all policies.
  • Ask the employee to write a statement in his or her own handwriting: “I refuse to sign the acknowledgement form.”
  • Have a company representative sign a statement indicating the employee refused to sign the acknowledgement form.

Keep a record of the employee’s refusal to sign the form, along with all signed acknowledgements.

Ease the distribution process with online software

Making sure employees receive copies of your policies – and tracking confirmation of receipt — can be an organizational headache.

The Company Policies Smart App makes developing and distributing company policies a cinch. With just a few clicks, you can publish policies and notify employees, or print them out to distribute, depending on your needs. You can also see which employees have viewed each policy to track confirmation of receipt.

Key Takeaways
  • Put important company policies, especially OSHA and EEO, in writing.
  • Compile policies online or in a printed handbook so they are easily accessible to employees.
  • Track whether or not employees have received and read the policies.
  • Follow consistent enforcement for all policies (including signing the acknowledgment form).