7 Timely Employee Handbook Updates [2021]

When was the last time your organization’s employee handbook was updated? If the date is unknown, then it is way past time to make the necessary changes. If the employee handbook remains out of date, it could become a harmful liability instead of a helpful tool.

Given the events of the last year (i.e., COVID-19, nationwide protests, climate change effects), our staff recommends you update your handbook often as changes happen and communicate those changes to your team immediately.

Employee Handbook Purpose

It is important to note that employee handbooks should not be drafted as employment contracts. They should be written in clear, easy-to-understand language so your workforce can quickly find answers to their questions.

2021 Update Recommendations

Electronic Communications

As our “real-time” digital world grows, so too does the chance to cause irrevocable damage to reputations and, therefore, livelihoods. Use caution when posting on social channels, sending emails, or writing blogs. Be crystal clear on what is and is not acceptable in online behavior and the consequences of violating this policy.

Drug Testing

Currently, 35 states have approved medical marijuana, and 15 states have legalized recreational use. Your organization must have an updated drug policy reflecting these state laws.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued COVID-19 specific guidelines to limit workers’ exposure to the coronavirus. You will want to share with your employees how you are following these initiatives in the handbook.

Leave Mandates

In 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provided paid leave for individual workers who had COVID-19 or whose children’s schools or child care facilities were closed during the pandemic; it expires on March 31, 2021, but may be extended beyond that with a new stimulus package.

Be sure you are clear about who is eligible for this leave, especially considering remote schooling is still happening.


During this time of COVID-19, many employees have been working remotely, yet there may not be a written policy. Ensure the procedure includes the positions eligible for telework, hours and days eligible, and expenses that the company will reimburse.

Contingency Plans

Wildfires, hurricanes, demonstrations, corporate activism, and, of course, COVID-19 have been real disruptors for work. Your organization needs to have an up-to-date contingency plan for all of these situations.


Even though Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on color, national origin, race, religion, and sex, the term “sex” was updated to include sexual orientation and gender identity, which protects the LGBTQ+ community.

We Can Help You with Your HR Policies

SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc. can help your organization establish sound HR policies and procedures to improve workplace culture, help prevent disagreements, and ensure everyone is treated equally. Contact Us to find out how we can help put you back in control of Human Resources!