Many employers, probably your business included, have included a statement in the employee handbook that reinforces that employment with the company is “at will.” This generally means that employees can be fired for any reason or no reason at all, providing the termination does not violate state or federal law. This is a good beginning, but it does not go far enough.
Have you checked your handbook to be sure it doesn’t contain stipulations within the policies that undermine the at-will relationship? Here are some areas that might need some attention:
- Discipline: Eliminate statements that you will follow disciplinary procedures in all cases.
- Discharge: Eliminate statements that you will fire employees only for “cause” or specific violations of policy.
- Specific references to time: Eliminate references to specific times, such as employees will have an annual review, there will be an annual raise, there will be an annual bonus, your annual salary will be $___, and the like. Substitute words such as “periodic,” “as warranted,” and “as needed.” State salaries in hourly, weekly, or monthly amounts.
- Policy changes: Include a statement that the handbook is not a contract and that you, as the employer, have the right to change any of the provisions in the manual at any time. Repeat this statement in the form that employees sign acknowledging receipt of the handbook.
- Policy exceptions In the policy manual, clearly identify the person who is authorized to make exceptions to your policies in writing.
- Consistency: Make sure that all of your recruitment and hiring documents, application forms, handbooks, and everything else complies with your policy of at-will employment. Be careful, though, not to intimidate employees by over-emphasizing this concept.
- Acknowledgment: Include a statement with the handbook for employees to sign acknowledging that they have read the handbook and understand that their employment is at-will.
Updating your employee handbook is the first step to protect your small business. Make sure the policies both protect you and also look out for your employees.
This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: How To Safeguard An At-Will Relationship In Your Small Business
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