3 Employee Handbook Policies To Update Now

sheet of paper that says employee handbook updates

One of the most important things you can do as a business owner or HR manager is to regularly update your employee handbook. Not only is your handbook a powerful tool to communicate your organization’s culture and vision; it can also serve as your first line of defense in an employment lawsuit or investigation.

Over the past few months, there were a few big updates in the world of HR that should be reflected in your employee handbook. So if you haven’t already, here are 3 handbook policies you should update now.

1. Lactation Accommodations

California’s SB 142 recently passed, expanding employer requirements for lactation accommodations. Under this bill, lactation accommodation handbook policies must point out that employees can file a compliant with the Labor Commissioner if they believe their rights have been violated.

Therefore, it is especially important to understand what kind of accommodations you must provide under the law. And because the policy updates are also required by law, we recommend updating your handbook immediately.

What’s required under SB 142?

This update requires employers to provide a lactation room that:

  1. Is not a bathroom. Further, the room must be in close proximity to the employee’s work area. It should also be shielded from view and free from intrusion.
  2. Is safe, clean, and free of hazardous materials.
  3. Contains a surface to place a breast pump and personal items on.
  4. Has access to electricity or alternative devices to operate an electronic or battery-powered breast pump. For example, extension cords, charging stations, etc.
  5. Contains a place to sit.

Additionally, SB 142 requires employers to provide access to a sink with running water and a refrigerator (or suitable alternative such as a cooler) for storing milk in close proximity to the employee’s workspace.

Finally, employers must provide a compliant lactation policy to new employees upon hiring. This should also be provided when an employee makes an inquiry about or requests parental leave.

2. Organ Donation Leave

California AB 1223 requires employers with 15 or more employees to grant employees an additional unpaid leave of absence for the purpose of organ donation.

California’s amendment to the organ donation leave law changed the entitlement from 30 paid days to 30 paid days plus 30 unpaid days. We recommend employers update this policy during their next handbook review and ensure that managers are aware of the change in the meantime.

3. Equal Employment

Under both federal law and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, it’s unlawful for an employer to discriminate based on certain protected characteristics, including race. California now defines race, for employment purposes, to include traits historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.

In light of this, employers who have appearance policies that prohibit natural hairstyles should revise those policies. Additionally, employers should train managers and those involved in hiring not to make judgments about professionalism or culture fit based on these hairstyles.

We recommend you update your employee handbook policy to indicate that the protection for race includes associated traits and hairstyles. For example, when listing protected classes, you can change this bullet point. (From “Race” to “Race and associated traits, including hairstyles.”)

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What do you think?

When was the last time you made an update to your employee handbook? If you haven’t already, try our Employee Handbook builder. Need help making more customized content or reviewing a current handbook? Then let’s talk to see how our in house team of HR professionals can help your business!

For more HR tips and support, be sure to log on to SDP’s HR Support Center. (Free for all clients!) There, you can access our entire library of laws, articles, policies, and trainings on HR topics affecting all states and municipalities. And don’t forget to follow us out on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn for even more business tips & tricks!

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