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Is your employee handbook up-to-date for 2021?

The world has changed just a bit in the last year (understatement of the decade), and HR professionals and workplace leadership are rushing to solidify new rules and workplace policies accordingly. Beyond just COVID-19, the world is progressing and workplace policies must evolve right along with it. Here are some of topics to consider when updating your policies for the modern workplace.

Remote Work Policies

So many virtual workspaces sprang up since March 2020, and many companies are realizing that their employee's prefer the flexibility of working from home. Enacting a written policy will get employees on the same page, create consistency and avoid feelings of unfairness amongst the team. Some things to consider: How often can employees work from home? Only on necessary occasions, if so, what are some examples? Or perhaps employees can select 3 days each month to WFH.

Consider if childcare should be required for employees working at home and whether or not requests to work remotely should require approval.

Employers should also set working hours that employees should be available. Salaried employees especially can feel pressured to be "always on." You can also streamline communication by designating consistent channels to keep in touch.

COVID-19 Safety & Exposure Notices

Include all measures your company is taking to enforce a safe and healthy workplace, including masking, distancing, shared materials, vaccinations etc.

Effective January 1, 2021, Assembly Bill 685 requires employers to provide notification to employees and local and state public health officials of potential exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. Notice of potential exposure must be provided to employees within one business day of the employer’s receipt of notice of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis or isolation order. Employers should prepare the notices in advance so they can meet this strict deadline. See some example notification letters here.

Social Media Usage

Employees should be mindful about mixing their business and personal lives on social media. A good social media policy should remind employees of the company values and to keep sensitive information, such as company finances, private. This is also important if your company has confidential clients or new product launches.

Also think about whether or not employees need to disclose they work for the company when promoting it or a client. For example: Intel, asks employees to add #IamIntel as part of their social media policy. Another aspect to consider, especially if you have designers and other creatives on your team, is what (if anything) can be shared to a personal portfolio or website.

Use Gender Neutral Language

Review your current policies with special attention to areas such as dress code descriptions to make sure it's gender neutral. Also review your verbiage under benefit plans and parental leave to ensure it's as inclusive as possible.

Parental Leave

82% of Americans believe full time employees deserve 12 weeks of full paid leave according to a 2021 YouGov poll. Consider terms such as "primary caregiver" versus mother or father to stay gender neutral. (And don't forget about leave for secondary caregivers as well.) Often new parents are forced to use all of their vacation time, which can lead to stress, burnout and leaving the workforce all together.

Set yourself apart as an employer with a strong parental leave plan, which will give you an edge while recruiting. Also consider adoption leave and whether or not the company is willing to help finance adoption fees for employees.


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