End-of-the-Year Handbook Review for Small Businesses

When was the last time you updated your business' employee handbook? With a new year on the horizon, now is the perfect time to take a look at this valuable document and make sure you have everything in place and up to date for a good year.

 

As we approach the end of the year, it is a perfect time to review and update your company’s policies and handbook. Every year I advise my clients—whether they have a company of two or 200 employees—that they must review and update their handbooks and policies. There are some basic policies that every small business needs to have in writing. And, while there are no laws requiring a written handbook, federal and state employment laws do change so it is good business practice to have one and it could become very important in the event of a legal issue regarding employment practices. Putting company rules in writing also helps to set employee expectations and reduces the chance of any misunderstandings. Formal personnel policies also protect your business in the event of an employee dispute.

An employee handbook is basically just an assembling of your company's policies and protocols, as well as your employees' legal rights and obligations. It doesn’t have to be complicated but it should include the following basic topics:

  • Attendance and time off issues including company holidays, paid or unpaid holidays and time off.Include termination and employment status such as contractual or at-will.
  • Medical, family and bereavement time off, and if these are paid or not.
  • Working hours, breaks, overtime and any payroll issues relating to these areas. State definitions of exempt and non-exempt employee classifications, as well as details on your pay period, payday, overtime-authorization rules and any meal/rest break guidelines for hourly employees. You should also explain how payroll deductions are handled for time off (which will likely differ for exempt and nonexempt employees).
  • Rules of conduct, which can include dress code and customer interaction, as well as conduct in the workplace. And to cover you, if there is something not specifically in your policy include a statement such as “And any other management rules.”

RELATED: Do you have these 10 things in your employee handbook?

Additionally, it is important to define your company policies on timely issues including:

  • Electronic devices and employees use of both their own and company owned devices. This should cover computers, laptops, tablets, and cell phones. Include security rules, usage rules, procedures, etc.
  • A social media policy should include what is and what is not allowed such as posting on social media, what information is considered confidential, brand guidelines, sharing rules, etc.
  • If you have workers who work remotely, have a policy clearly stating guidelines and working arrangements, limitations, expectations and who is eligible to work remotely.
  • Having a drug and alcohol policy is essential for any business today. Clearly state that you have a drug-free workplace that prohibits the possession, sale and use of any illegal drugs or alcohol in the workplace or on the job. Include any drug testing you may perform including random or otherwise. Medical marijuana is legal in many states, so you may want to include a clause that addresses this issue. Also include any consequences for violating the policy.
  • It is a good idea to protect your data and company information by having a confidentiality policy. This should cover products, data, systems, communications, testing, etc.
  • No matter the size of your business, you must have a weapons policy. As a business owner, you are legally obligated to protect your employees from workplace violence. Be specific. You can include everything from verbal threats to weapons when defining what is allowed. You may not however, be able to ban weapons from being in locked cars in parking lots.
  • You have an obligation to protect your employees from workplace harassment and discrimination. This includes discrimination based on race, color, national origin or gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or age. Clearly define the types of actions that are considered discrimination or harassment (including sexual harassment) and what your policies for infractions are. Include specific provisions for how to report behavior that violates your policies and a statement that ensures reporting such behavior is protected.

RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff.

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), requires companies with 15 or more employees to provide certain accommodations for workers with disabilities to allow them to perform their jobs. Make sure your company policy defines disabilities and states your intent to comply with all applicable laws under the ADA. Spell out how requests for accommodations should be made, including what information you require (such as any medical records) and to whom requests should be submitted.
  • Have a crisis plan that includes severe weather, natural disasters, or other potential crises. Include communication instructions and who is the person in charge in the event of a crisis.

Be specific and always state any consequences for infractions. Make sure all employees receive original (and updated) company policies for total compliance and legal protection. Have employees sign an acknowledgment stating they received the policies, read them and understand their content. Keep a copy of the signed acknowledgment in the personnel file, or a date and time stamp on an electronic acknowledgment.

If all of this seems overwhelming to you, consult with an outside HR firm or legal counsel to help.

President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security ExpertTimothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com.

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  • Next up: Energy Project Case Study: Here’s the Money You Could be Saving
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  • Energy Project Case Study: Here’s the Money You Could be Saving

    You’ve heard a lot from us about the economic sense it makes to audit your building to find areas where you can make your facility more energy efficient. Now, let us show you a real-life example of a local Cleveland company and COSE member that went through this process and the real life money the company was able to receive.

    Northeast Ohio manufacturing company
    While we can’t name names, we can tell you the company in question is a manufacturing company with about 50 employees whose roughly 60,000 square foot facility is located here in Northeast Ohio. This company had its energy audit in September 2016 and received its audit report a month later in October.

    The company’s officials were interested in upgrading its lighting (an easy step to take on the way to energy efficiency, by the way) from T8 tubes to LED tubes. About half of the lights in this facility are on 24 hours a day, which significantly shortens the payback period (more on that in a minute.)

    The manufacturer received several quotes through COSE’s Contractor Network and selected one to upgrade their lighting in January 2017. COSE facilitated the rebate application and on Feb. 17th, they received the pre-approval from FirstEnergy to get a cash rebate—valued at $8,121.

    Let’s talk numbers
    Now for the question I know you’re all wanting to ask: What about the money? Well, here you go:

    The cost to change out the lights came to $40,000, with annual energy savings of approximately 170,000 kwh. This translates to annual dollar savings of about $18,500 a year as the company uses about 1.6 million kwh annually so lighting savings are about 10% a year. And remember when I mentioned this company’s payback period a little bit earlier? The simple payback on this project is about 2.16 years. But, when you factor in the rebate, the payback period drops to 1.7 years.

    Hopefully, this example makes the money your company could be saving a little more tangible. Energy efficiency projects are unlike other capital projects: Properly structured, they pay for themselves and they should not have to compete with other capital projects for funding.

    And of course, if you have any questions about what might be right for your business, please do not hesitate to contact the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Energy Team at 216-592-2205 or via email at energy@gcpartnership.com.

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  • Next up: Energy Thoughts, Highlights and Help:
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  • Energy Thoughts, Highlights and Help:

    Having just experienced one of the hottest summers in recent years, real time electricity prices have remained low.  Causing the forward electricity market to return to near all-time lows that we previously saw in February 2016.  This has created an opportunity for customers to lock in budget certainty pricing through-out the 2021 time frame. Again with prices that are stable and at historic lows for this time of year and current weather forecasts, this creates a unique opportunity to generate a clearly defined budget for your energy spend.

    Having just experienced one of the hottest summers in recent years, real time electricity prices have remained low.  Causing the forward electricity market to return to near all-time lows that we previously saw in February 2016.  This has created an opportunity for customers to lock in budget certainty pricing through-out the 2021 time frame. Again with prices that are stable and at historic lows for this time of year and current weather forecasts, this creates a unique opportunity to generate a clearly defined budget for your energy spend.

    To help your business be more sustainable and reduce energy costs this summer, we’ve compiled a list of ten easy-to-implement energy conservation tips from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL):

    • Implement an HVAC system night setback schedule: Work with your building staff to identify operational hours of HVAC equipment in non-24/7 areas. Be sure to consider acceptable temperature limits for any equipment that may be located in these areas and set unoccupied set-points within the acceptable limits.

    • Install solar shading features on east-, west- and south-facing facades: Install landscaping (trees, hedge rows), overhangs or fins, light shelves (shelves that reflect light into a building) and blinds to save on cooling and electrical lighting on all applicable east-, west- and south-facing facades of your building(s).

    • Install weather-stripping around loading dock doors: All loading dock doors should be insulated to reduce heat transfer through the building envelope and energy demands. The irregular surfaces and mounting hardware of rolling doors require heavy-duty weather-stripping (vinyl or wood pile, neoprene bulb or neoprene baffle).

    • Insulate hot water pipes: Pipe insulation reduces heat loss through distribution pipes and increases overall system efficiency. Any heated pipe with exterior temperatures over 120°F should be insulated.

    • Replace incandescent recessed can fixtures with LED or CFL lighting: Light-emitting diode (LED) and compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) lighting use less energy, have dimming capability and are good retrofit options for recessed can fixtures.

    • Replace standard T-8 fluorescent lamps with super T-8 fluorescent lamps: Super T-8 fluorescent lamps have the same light output as standard T-8 lamps, but use less energy, last longer and have improved color rendering.

    • Install programmable thermostats: Programmable thermostats allow you to adjust the space temperature according to your seven-day occupancy schedule. This is also a good time to revise thermostat set-points – raising the temperature by a few degrees in the summer can have a large impact on energy usage.

    • Replace exit signs with LED exit signs: LED exit signs use less energy and can save significant amounts of energy when compared to incandescent exit signs. Be sure the new LED exit signs meet building and fire code requirements.

    • Check computers for proper power management settings: Check for proper power management settings. Monitors should turn off after 5 or 10 minutes of inactivity and the system should go into standby mode after 5 to 10 minutes of inactivity.

    • Replace appliances and office equipment with ENERGY STAR® models: ENERGY STAR® models use less energy that standard appliances and office equipment. Individual printers, scanners and fax machines should be removed and replaced with a central ENERGY STAR® multifunction device (a combination printer, scanner and fax machine) that can be shared by a group of employees.

    For more information and assistance with an extended energy contract speak with the COSE energy team at 216-595-2205 or at energy@cose.org

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  • Next up: Energy Upgrade: How Bundling Projects Boosts ROI
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  • Energy Upgrade: How Bundling Projects Boosts ROI

    Bundling your energy efficiency projects can not only help you justify a large capital outlay, it can also generate a quick payback on the investment.

    Bundling your energy efficiency projects can not only help you justify a large capital outlay, it can also generate a quick payback on the investment.

    One way to think about this is to combine low- or no-cost projects (such as ensuring outside air dampers are working properly during peak heating and cooling times) with higher-cost investment projects (such as installing variable frequency drives on motors, or other projects that might require an engineering design or additional evaluation.)

    Remember what I mentioned earlier about a quick payback? Well, the money invested in installing a variable frequency drive could yield savings for your small business. If the drive’s flow decreases by 25%, the resulting energy savings would total 50% (assuming a 20-horsepower pump that’s working 24 hours a day.)

    So, what is the dollar savings of this project? Try $1,450 a year. That means the simple payback on this project is approximately 2.7 to 3.5 years. And don’t forget, you’ve paired this project with the no/low-cost air damper project, which will boost your savings even further because properly working dampers will require significantly less energy.

    COSE’s Energy Team can help you connect the dots and figure out which energy projects make the most sense to do at the same time to maximize the total investment return on your project dollars. 

    Work with our Team to determine if you qualify for a whole-building energy assessment at no cost to you. They will help you learn how your building uses power and identify areas of your building that can be improved, which could save you an average of 25% to 30% on your operating costs. Also, learn about other programs that provide rebates for the projects you implement that save on electrical use. 

    Learn about COSE’s energy assessment work and other programs designed to help you save on your energy costs. Contact our Energy Team at 216-592-2205 or via email at energy@cose.org.

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  • Next up: Enroll in the Northeast Ohio Safety Council
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  • Enroll in the Northeast Ohio Safety Council

    Safety is a topic that should be first and foremost on the minds of business owners here in Northeast Ohio and everywhere. Regardless of size, the safety and wellbeing of the workforce remains critical to the success of our local economy.

    The Northeast Ohio Safety Council (NEOSC) has everything businesses need to create and maintain a safe working environment. From pertinent safety issues to qualified and experienced speakers, the NEOSC will provide your organization with the tools and knowledge you need to improve the safety culture within your workplace.

    Additionally, your business can earn up to 4% off of your workers’ compensation premiums by joining the NEOSC today and attending our monthly breakfast meetings.

    NEOSC Open enrollment: Now through July 31, 2017

    Visit neosafetycouncil.com or call Margaret Bajic at 216-592-2373.

    Meeting Topics and Dates:

    Each meeting will include breakfast followed by a 30-45 minute educational seminar led by a qualified professional in the safety industry.


    Job Safety Analysis and Assessing Workplace Hazards Ergonomics
    The Employee Handbook Stress and Stress Management Workplace Violence
    OSHA Fundamentals and Compliance Drugs and Alcohol at Work Workers' Compensation Fraud vs. Abuse
    Safety and the Aging Workforce Anatomy of Wokers' Comp Health & Wellness

    July 12, 2017 November 8, 2017 March 14, 2018
    August 9, 2017 December 13, 2017 April 11, 2018
    September 13, 2017 January 10, 2018 May 9, 2018
    October 11, 2017 February 14, 2018 June 13, 2018
    *Meeting Dates and topics are subject to change.

    NEOSC Meeting Details:

    Where: Holiday Inn, Independence: 6001 Rockside Rd, Independence, OH 44131

    When: Second Wednesday of each month from July 2017-June 2018

    Time: 7:30 a.m. (registration) - 10:00 a.m.

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  • Next up: Everything You Need to Know About Cloud Computing
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  • Everything You Need to Know About Cloud Computing

    In our cloud computing Q-and-A with Brad Nellis of Expedient, we referenced three reports that can help you get a grasp on how the technology could be useful for your business. Here are links to each of those reports.

    In our cloud computing Q-and-A with Brad Nellis of Expedient, we referenced three reports that can help you get a grasp on how the technology could be useful for your business. Here are links to each of those reports:

     Want to know more about how to keep your cloud of the hands of the bad guys? The experts at Affordable-IT explain cloud computing best practices you need to know.

     

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