Employee Handbooks in Maryland

November 20, 2020
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

employee handbook with pen

Even though they are not required in Maryland, most employers recognize the value of having an employee handbook. It serves as a central location for all policies that you expect your employees to observe and provides clear, written guidance regarding what those expectations are. Despite the importance of having an employee handbook, many employers either don’t have one or are relying on one that is stale and outdated. If you need an employee handbook or have one that needs to be updated, a Maryland employment attorney can help. 

Your Handbook Should Be Customized to Fit Your Business

This may seem obvious, but many employers try to save some money by using a form document or editing someone else’s employee handbook. A form document will not offer the protection you need. Making edits to another company’s handbook to fit your business may not save much time over drafting an entirely new handbook if you do a thorough job. Your employee handbook should address the unique needs of your business that your employees need to understand.  

Establishing Expectations 

Employee handbooks are also an effective medium for introducing employees to your company’s mission, culture, and values. More importantly, your employee handbook should communicate how you expect your employees to conduct themselves to further your company’s goals. 

Your employee handbook should also set forth the specific standards of conduct you expect your employees to meet. This can range from professional industry standards that your company must comply with, but also address the following: 

  • Dress code
  • Timeliness
  • Safety
  • Timekeeping
  • Reporting

Setting out your expectations in writing provides clear and concise guidance to your employees that will help your company grow and help them advance in their careers. 

Communicating Key Policies

Your employee handbook can also serve as a centralized location for your business’s most important policies. This can include the following: 

  • Attendance and leave policies
  • Drug and alcohol policies
  • Anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies
  • Computer and social media policies
  • Disciplinary policies
  • Workplace and IT security policies
  • Ethics policies
  • Inclement weather policies

In addition to these policies, you should also include how employees proceed if they have a complaint or other sensitive issue. And again, your handbook should be updated regularly. For example, many businesses are adopting COVID-19 protocols and amending their leave policies in response to the pandemic – policies that should definitely be included in your handbook. 

Highlighting Your Benefits

More and more businesses are offering a broad array of benefits to provide competitive compensation packages. Your employee handbook should provide an overview of the benefits your company provides, as well as how and when employees become eligible and what happens to their benefits in the event they leave the company.

Guarding Against Liability

Employee handbooks can also serve as a shield against liability. If your company is sued due to an employment dispute, your employee handbook serves as evidence that your company makes a reasonable effort to ensure that employees are treated fairly. Of course, if you don’t follow the policies laid out in the handbook, it can also become evidence that you failed to follow your own procedures. A Maryland employment attorney can review your employee handbook and determine whether it provides the legal protection you need. 

Your Handbook Should Be a Living Document

Many employers set out to develop a comprehensive employee handbook with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, the handbook quickly becomes outdated as it is left to sit and gather dust. Eventually, most employees forget that it even exists. Not only does this defeat the purpose of having an employee handbook, but it creates potential liability issues for your business.

Another common problem is that the handbook is fully implemented but is never updated. Over time, your everyday practices start to diverge from the procedures laid on in your handbook. You may be missing updates that could help your business run more efficiently and offer greater flexibility.  

A Maryland employment attorney can not only help you draft a useful employee handbook; they can also help you implement it. From there, they can also conduct period reviews to make sure that it is consistent with your company’s employment practices and incorporates current best practices in your industry. 

It’s Not a Contract, But Your Employees Should Sign It

Lastly, you should require a signed acknowledgment from your employees upon receipt of the handbook. While you can’t force them to read it, you can include a statement that by signing it, the employee acknowledges receipt of the handbook and acknowledges that they are responsible for knowledge of its contents. 

Contact Maryland Employment Attorney J.W. Stafford

Often overlooked, the employee handbook can be a vital document in your company’s operations. If you would like some experienced guidance regarding your employee handbook, contact the Law Firm of J. W. Stafford at 410-514-6099 to schedule a consultation.