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April 17, 2012

A Policy has to be Changed: Now What?

Filed under: Compliance,Management Practices10:12 am

Last week, Joyce wrote an informative blog about the importance of a solid policy manual and handbook.  The policy manual and employee handbook provide a foundation that outlines the company’s expectations of its employees.  These documents are not solid – written once and put up on a shelf: rather, they are fluid and must be updated as a company grows and as regulations change.  Amending policies is not a process to be done behind the closed doors of the HR Director’s office.  Here are some suggested steps when a policy change is in order:

  1. Check your existing policy manual and handbook to be sure there is a disclaimer that states the company may change or modify policies at any time.  This statement will significantly reduce the likelihood that the handbook could be viewed as a binding employment contract.  If there is no disclaimer, stop here and consult legal counsel.
  2. Seek input from other stakeholders about the proposed changes.  Conduct a focus group with employees and managers, or develop a committee that will assist with revisions to the policy.
  3. Research state and federal law to ensure the proposed policy change is compliant.  For example, an employer wants to require employees to accept their paychecks through direct deposit.  State laws vary in their guidance to employers in whether they can require direct deposit for paying their employees.
  4. As soon as the policy has been approved by legal counsel and company leadership, communicate these changes to employees.  While it is not mandatory to inform employees ahead of time of the change, it is considered best practice to do so.  In determining how much advance notice to give, consider the impact on employees’ morale, finances, work/life balance, and benefits.
  5. Obtain a signed acknowledgement from all employees regarding the changed policy.  The statement should include that the employee has received a copy of the policy and understands what is contained in the policy.

These suggestions will ensure that the company is effective in its communication of expectations to employees, and ensure the employee understands the changes contained in the document.

Look for much more this month as we explore policies and handbooks.

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