Why on earth should I bother with an office manual? I only have 5 employees! What a waste of time and money!
Any good Maryland Lawyer who regularly helps small businesses will tell you that having, enforcing, and regularly reviewing office policies is a vital part of owning and running a successful small business. They can prevent problems before they start and they stop any potential lawsuit by a former employee at a motion to dismiss. Office Policy manuals are absolutely, positively necessary in today’s world for any business that has more than 1 employee.
How can they help my business run more efficiently?
You have a dream for your small business. It might be to make a lot of money, it might be to help the homeless, or it might be to build the best toilet seat the world has ever seen. Whatever your dream, we want to make sure your employees are on the same page as you. Spelling out those the goals, rules, and guidelines in a policy manual will remove questions from employees’ minds and keep everyone on the same script for succeeding at business. Here is a shortlist of concepts you might include:
- Company vision
- Company values
- Company goals
- Vacation plans/days
- Health benefits
- Other available benefits (401k, dental, vision, life insurance, etc)
- Do you have a dress code?
- Do you have a designated smoking area, lunch area, break room, etc?
- Do you have designated work hours?
Providing these policies in advance of someone coming to work for you can eliminate issues before they happen. Also, if your employee fails to live up to some of these, they may be used as grounds for termination.
How can office policies help me from getting sued?
Certain provisions are non-negotiable in the office manuals that my firm drafts. They are (in no particular order):
- Safety hazards and mandatory reporting of workplace injuries
- Anti discrimination
- Workplace violence
- Drug use
- Sexual harassment
Your company should have zero tolerance for these issues. There is no room for an unsafe workplace, discrimination, drug use, or sexual harassment at work. Having the company’s zero-tolerance for violations of any of the above policy areas spelled out in advance of hiring an employee can end a potential lawsuit before it starts.
How can office policies help me prevent fraud?
Ask yourself a few questions:
- Can you search your employees’ lockers?
- Can you search your employees’ computers?
- Can you search your employees’ Facebook pages?
- Can you search your employees’ bags after they have been fired for stealing from your company?
Not all these questions can be answered here (and generally the answer is NO), but with an office policy manual, your employee can be put on notice and even waive some of their protections to privacy in the workplace. These areas are shifting in the eyes of the law and the consultation with a Maryland lawyer is necessary. For example, according to a recent Maryland Court of Appeals case, you cannot force an employee to provide their Facebook login information as a condition of employment. But you can have them consent to monitor their internet usage over YOUR business’ network.
The Bottom line on Office Policies
In order to protect your business, be sure to have the proper policies in place. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of an office policy manual, it might be that an ounce of prevention is worth 100 lbs of cure. If you are the owner of a Maryland small business and you are searching for the right Maryland lawyer to help your business get to the next level, be sure to contact ENlawyers.