When writing an employee manual, it is easy to focus on the policies and discipline procedures, because that is where the problems are usually reflected. But there are some final touches that should be put on every employee manual, one of which is a set of disclaimers.
The first disclaimer comes in the introduction, where the employer sets out the expectations for what the manual does; it looks something like this:
Company reserves the right to change or discontinue these policies, procedures, and benefits in its sole discretion within the confines of the law. Violation of any of these policies may lead to discipline, up to and including termination.
Before the list of benefits, the manual should include a short introduction to the benefits the company provides, including language similar to this:
Company believes that its employees are critical to its success and it provides the benefits below to support them. Benefits may change from time to time, at Company’s discretion. For more information on any benefit program, ask the HR Manager.
Benefit programs such as group insurance or FMLA have complicated details and change regularly as the regulations change, so it is easier to use the manual to explain the basics and point to the person who can answer questions, rather than spelling out all the details and having to update the manual every few months.
And again in the employee acknowledgement, repeat the disclaimer;
I understand this Manual is not intended to cover every situation which may arise during my employment, but is simply a guide to the policies, practices, benefits, and expectations of Company. I acknowledge that this manual is not a contract of employment and that policies and benefits may be changed from time to time at the discretion of the company.
Make sure that the employee signs and dates this, and that the acknowledgement form goes in their personnel file.
The point of these disclaimers isn’t to cheat employees, but to allow the employer room to make changes as the business environment or government regulations change, so that the business can survive and continue to provide jobs.
Disclaimer: These examples fit Montana’s laws; check with a local employment lawyer if you are in a different state.
Thanks to Katie Mahe for a great presentation!