Submitted by: Tara Manco, Marketing Associate, PROXUS

The employee handbook. You know it’s common sense to have one, but amidst trying to keep up with the responsibilities of HR management, it can be easy to overlook this invaluable employer tool.

Ideally, companies should perform a review of their employee handbook on an annual basis. Because industry rules and regulations are constantly changing, failure to do so could potentially land your company in serious legal and financial trouble.

Following are some of the most important updates you should make now to ensure your employee handbook, and business, is ready for 2016.

Confidentiality

According to a report released earlier this year by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), employees have the right to discuss wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment with management, fellow employees, non-employees, and third parties such as the media. While employers may require that employees not share “confidential information,” this restriction should be carefully worded because the NLRB will consider unlawful any policy that can be construed by employees as limiting their rights to discuss employment terms and conditions.

For instance, the following statements are considered unlawful by the NLRB:

“Do not discuss ‘customer or employee information’ outside of work, including ‘phone numbers [and] addresses.”

“Never publish or disclose [the Employer’s] or another’s confidential or other proprietary information. Never publish or report on conversations that are meant to be private or internal to [the Employer].”

“You must not disclose proprietary or confidential information about [the Employer, or] other associates (if the proprietary or confidential information relating to [the Employer’s] associates was obtained in violation of law or lawful Company policy).”

While these statements are considered lawful:

“No unauthorized disclosure of “business ‘secrets’ or other confidential information.”

“Misuse or unauthorized disclosure of confidential information not otherwise available to persons or firms outside [Employer] is cause for disciplinary action, including termination.”

“Do not disclose confidential financial data, or other non-public proprietary company information. Do not share confidential information regarding business partners, vendors or customers.”

Social Media

Under the same NLRB report, employers should not limit an employee’s