HR & Benefits News: Current Employee Handbook: A Must for Grocers

Chris Cooley

Chris Cooley

Editor’s note: HR & Benefits News is a monthly column by Chris Cooley, co-founder of MyHRConcierge and SMB Benefits Advisors.

Myth: Independent grocers really don’t need employee handbooks…no one reads them anyway.

Reality: An employee handbook can help protect grocers who face lawsuits or discrimination charges if it’s up-to-date and well-written.

Grocers of all sizes need a current employee handbook. If you don’t have one, get one ASAP. If you have one, make sure it’s up to date.

Here are four reasons why a current employee handbook is a must-have in today’s business climate.

  1. Shields you when discrimination, harassment and similar charges arise

Some grocers mistakenly believe they are immune to these situations because they have fewer than 30 employees. An attorney recently warned that companies with as few as four employees have faced discrimination charges.

Well-crafted employee handbooks can serve as a foundation for defending EEOC claims. Handbooks can help you demonstrate compliance with federal, state and local labor requirements. For example, documenting how an employee can report errors in their pay check, harassment or discrimination in the handbook demonstrates the employer’s efforts to comply.

  1. Communicates the ground rules in a consistent way

Handbooks are an essential first step in consistently communicating and applying your company’s ground rules. They outline what you expect from employees and what they can expect from you.

For example, a handbook often defines things like the pay schedule, overtime calculations and paid time off policies; acceptable and non-acceptable behavior; and federal, state and local regulations your company must follow.

  1. Promotes fairness and consistency

Can you imagine playing a baseball, football or other game without a rulebook to go by? When you have multiple managers responsible for employees across departments, locations and shifts, it’s nearly impossible to consistently and fairly apply policies without an employee handbook.

A handbook help ensure your company is treating employees in a consistent and fair way. Claims like “I didn’t know the policy existed” can be readily addressed by referring to the handbook.

  1. Educates and supports managers

A handbook is a great resource for your managers and supervisors. It helps educate them about the labor laws and regulations your company must comply with. When they need to answer employee questions, managers can go to the handbook instead of searching for and confirming they have the right policy.

A handbook can also help managers navigate fair and consistent policy enforcement. It can also help ease difficult conversations by providing a single document both employee and manager can refer to for guidance.

Three quick handbook tips

Here are three tips you can use now to help your handbook work for you and not against you.

  1. Review and update annually

Unless you’re reviewing and updating your handbook at least once a year, you are putting your company at risk. It’s crucial that the handbook be updated to address rapidly changing labor regulations, company policies and market conditions

  1. Make it short and relevant to your business

Avoid handbooks produced by a generator with check boxes. No one’s going to read a handbook that is 100-plus pages long. That’s a problem because judges have ruled in favor of employees when policies are stated in handbooks that are too long for anyone to reasonably read.

Ask for advice from a handbook professional about what must be included; what they strongly recommend including; and what not to include.

  1. Perform a three-point handbook evaluation

Make the most of your handbook investment by evaluating how well it communicates on three important fronts:

  • Legal and regulatory requirements;
  • Policies specific to your business and workforce; and

Information that helps you keep and recruit valuable workers.

Cooley provides HR compliance and administration, workforce management and benefits advisory solutions; his companies specialize in helping small to medium businesses throughout the U.S. He can be reached at 855-538-6947, ext. 108, or at ccooley@myhrconcierge.com.


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About The Author

A word nerd, grocery geek and two-year member of The Shelby Report. She is a proud new homeowner and a great lover of avocado toast.

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