Changing an Employee Handbook

As the needs of a company and its employees change, and as the relevant laws change on the federal, state, or local levels, employers may find it necessary to revise their employee handbooks and company policies.

In general, there should be no problems with changing the policies in a handbook if your employees are "at will," which means employers can change the terms and conditions of employment at any time. (If some of your employees have contracts, however, you can't unilaterally change the conditions of their employment.) All company handbooks should contain a prominent disclaimer reserving the right to change the handbook as needed.

However, before undertaking any major change, such as retracting the handbook or taking away benefits outlined in it, you must seek professional advice from an employment attorney. If you are contemplating taking away benefits, carefully consider the impact on existing employees. For example, if you plan to reduce vacation time, remember that you cannot take away vacation that has already accrued. You may also want to consider ways to soften the blow. Some possibilities include giving a one-time gift of vacation time or a small bonus to each employee.

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