Your employee handbook, It may be time for a tune-up

PSNsp16_3An employee handbook sets the stage for many scenarios, from vacation requests and maternity leaves to performance reviews and termination procedures. As certain situations arise, knowing the rules can prevent surprise, confusion and resentment on both sides of the table.

Regardless of your nonprofit’s size, it should offer employees a handbook that’s clear, up to date and complete.

Update regularly

To stay current, tune up your employee handbook once a year — more often, if needed. Look at revisions to federal, state and municipal employment laws. Changes over the last few years are far too numerous to detail, and vary widely by state (and municipality). But policies in certain areas may need updating.

Include health care plan information

To keep your handbook in compliance with current requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), revisions may be needed. For example, if “part-time” employees are excluded from the company health care plan, that should be noted. Also, if your nonprofit chooses to use the look-back periods allowed by the regulation, it should be mentioned. And if the definition of “part-time” is different for health benefits than for other benefits, make that distinction. Examine, too, your health care and benefits policies based on the recent changes in federal law permitting same-sex marriage and partner relationships.

Wellness plans are becoming an increasingly popular staple in nonprofits’ medical plans, and should be described in your handbook. If you have a plan, be sure to stay on top of ACA wellness program regulations. For instance, keep an eye on laws that may affect the design and administration of wellness programs, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Keep an eye on protections for pregnant women

Last June the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA, S. 1512, H.R. 2654) was introduced in Congress with bipartisan support for the first time. This legislation would provide pregnant women with job protections similar to those available under the ADA. These can include limits on heavy lifting, assistance with manual labor and access to places to sit.

Follow legislative and regulatory trends

Besides current laws and regulations, a prudent employer will keep an eye on proposed federal legislation and Department of Labor (DOL) regulations that, if enacted, will affect employment law — and, hence, the policies in your employee handbook. This year, you should follow developments in connection with:

The Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act, a bill that would allow employees to take leave for care of a same-sex spouse or partner, parent-in-law, adult child sibling, grandchild or grandparent, if that person has a serious medical condition, The Fair Credit Reporting Act, which could prohibit employers from using consumer credit reports to make hiring or job-related decisions, or obtain consumer or investigative reports on job candidates, and The DOL rule changing the overtime exemption, which could require employers to reclassify certain workers as nonexempt from overtime, depending on their salary and duties.

Once a new president takes office in January 2017, a flurry of legislative and regulatory change is possible in his or her early days on the job.

Your attorney’s advice

A finely tuned employee handbook can help protect your nonprofit against a range of employee misunderstandings and liabilities. Have your attorney review your handbook regularly to make sure important legal and regulatory changes aren’t overlooked. •