How to Make Changes to an Employee Handbook

by Marcia Moore, MSSW; Updated September 26, 2017
Communication at work is critical to success.

An employee handbook provides valuable information to new and established employees. It gives all employees a reference source for the company policies and rules. Although it may be given to new employees as part of their orientation (introduction to the company and company expectations), there may be changes in policies and procedures that need to be noted in the handbook. Updating employee handbooks is an important role for human resources or managers and supervisors. Since the handbook is an important tool, processes should be developed to determine how changes should be made.

Step 1
Employee handbooks are excellent guiding tools.

Determine what changes should be made to the handbook and why. Check with the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) to see if there are any new federal or state laws that affect employees. Perhaps there are changes in the health or compensation benefits that the company provides, or maybe significant events such as physical threats or sexual harassment issues have occurred. These are things that would need to be changed or added to the handbook.

Step 2

Write the handbooks in easily understood language. For example, it may be wise not to use a lot of complicated legal jargon that may be confusing rather than helpful. Avoid any controversial phrases such as "permanent employee" or any words that may imply a contractual agreement. Also, ensure that old, inapplicable rules are deleted and new rules are placed appropriately.

Step 3

Seek legal advice from the company attorney or other legal entity regarding the changes. It is important that all materials distributed to employees be reviewed for possible future lawsuits. Anything included in a handbook may be considered the written word of the employer. Companies may be well served to have the handbooks reviewed in advance of distribution.

Step 4

Schedule communication of the handbook changes. Employees need to know that new policies or procedures have been developed and are included in the revised edition of the handbook. Some companies may hold in-person meetings with employees to discuss the changes and provide opportunities for employees to ask questions. Other companies may send out memos to employees if the handbook is located online. It may be a good idea to have employees sign a form acknowledging that they have received the new handbook, and place it in their personnel file.

Tips

  • Do review the handbook annually.

    Do have legal entities review the handbook.

Warnings

  • Do not write new policies without distributing them to employees.

About the Author

Based in Dallas, Texas, Marcia Moore has been writing business-related materials since 1974. She has enjoyed a 30-year career in the field of human resources and works as a HR consultant to small and medium businesses. Moore holds a Master of Science in social work from the University of Texas in Arlington.

Photo Credits

  • Group of business people working together in the office. image by Andrey Kiselev from Fotolia.com