Giving your employees the proper direction


Photo of spiral bound employee manualWhen was the last time that you reviewed your employee manual? Does your manual have a section that explains what to do, who to call, and what to say in the event of an accident or crisis situation?

More than likely, businesses that have been operating for five years or more have employee manuals that have not kept up with the times, which could lead to financial losses in the event of a lawsuit. And, most manuals do not include a crisis communications section.

With the growth of the “Me Too” movement and workplace violence, employee manuals and crisis communication plans are vital. In these modern times, companies also need to address:

  • Ownership of employee-generated intellectual property
  • Usage of personal computers and thumb drives on network servers
  • Text messaging and email protocol
  • Internet usage
  • Medical and recreational marijuana use that might affect work performance
  • Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permits and weapons on the premises
  • Sexual and mental harassment
  • Discrimination

The U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) refers to an employee handbook as “an important communication tool between you and your employees.” As such, it holds various company policies, procedures, expectations, and responsibilities so that both you and your staff know what to expect from each other regarding employment-related issues such as wages, benefits, work hours, and more.

A well-written employee manual provides helpful guidance for supervisors and while reducing confusion and misunderstanding about practices and employee expectations. If an employee does not perform according to expectations or behaves outside the guidelines, the manual can provide backup for reprimand or termination.

It should also provide information that adheres to the guidelines as set forth by various employment laws and agencies, such as the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to make it more complete. If it doesn’t, then you might realize that it doesn’t really do you much good should you find yourself in court.

However, there are some disadvantages to having an employee manual, especially one that is poorly written.

  • Written poorly, it may lock an employer into an unintended express or implied contract.
  • Making exceptions to an employee manual can be problematic and could expose the company to discrimination claims if not uniformly applied.
  • It may be difficult to change the terms of a handbook, even when an employer implicitly reserves the right to change language, since the mere continuation of employment may not provide sufficient consideration of an employee’s rights.
  • May limit actions which an employer can take in circumstances not specifically contemplated by the manual.
  • A comprehensive set of personnel policies can provide easy access to valuable information concerning your company to unintended users of that information. (i.e., competitors, labor unions, etc.).
  • With the frequent and voluminous changes in employment and labor law, a failure to keep a manual up-to-date can be legally problematic for an employer.

Regardless of the few disadvantages, most lawyers and HR professionals suggest that it is in the employer’s best interest to have employment policies and procedures documented, no matter how large or small the company, to protect itself from potential litigation. Also, employers that have employee manuals are much more likely to apply policies in a consistent manner, regardless of an employee’s traits such as age, gender, or race.

Crisis Communications Plan

If you are a company that provides intellectual services (e.g., legal, accounting, real estate, consulting, etc.) a crisis communications plan is not that critical. However, if your company provides physical services (construction, manual labor, etc.) or provides a product to the public and there is a risk of an accident that is caused by your company or product that could impact the general public, a crisis communications plan is vital.

By example, a construction company that punctures a gas line or takes out a power grid. A product that is found defective or contaminated and requires a recall.

In the above cases, it is vital that there is a plan in place to gather the important facts and give the proper response to the press and the public.

The crisis communication plan should detail the response responsibilities of the employees involved, the internal process for gathering facts, how the company responds to the crisis, and who is authorized to speak on behalf of the company.

If the crisis has involved injury or loss of life, most PR professionals agree that:

  • A compassionate, fact-based statement (of the facts known at the time) given by the president/CEO of the company as soon after the event happens as possible, will demonstrate to the public that the company is taking responsibility and cares about its employees and the public welfare.
  • If the event requires on-going investigations, periodic updates by the president/CEO lets the public know that the company is cooperating and as interested as the public in determining the cause.
  • Once the cause has been determined, the president/CEO should once again express compassion for the victims and their families and lay out a clear plan of changes that will prevent any reoccurrence.

Case studies have shown that open and honest, proactive companies, have fared better in the public eye, regardless of fault, then companies that hide behind PR spokespersons with unsympathetic messages.

The key to having a well-written employee manual is to pay for competent legal advice for an attorney that specializes in employment law. There are also PR professionals that are experts in the field of crisis communications. Spending a few hundred dollars now could save a few thousand dollars at a later date.

We at Business Finance Corporation (BFC) understand the importance of working with industry experts and that is why we recommend hiring lawyers, CPAs, and other professionals that specialize in the needs of your business. When it comes to turning your accounts receivables into cash, we hope that you will call BFC at 702-947-3800 or go to

Your Partner in Success,

David Cabral