Employment terms and conditions: What to avoid

A good employment terms and condition of service manual is a valuable document that provides many uses for both small and large companies.

It records and communicates official rules and explains policies, benefits and other important information to which employees need to refer from time to time.

A terms and condition of service manual clearly documents what institutional memory will almost certainly distort over time.

A poorly written or incomplete manual on employment terms and conditions could leave your company open to potential lawsuits.

Building a useful terms and conditions of service manual shouldn't be too difficult as long as you pay special attention to sensitive legal topics and avoid documenting policies in the following areas.

1. Overtime restrictions.

Wage and hour laws require that overtime be paid for any work that exceeds more than 40 hours per week i.e 8 hours a day -- whether or not it is authorized by the employer. Never require that overtime work be authorized in advance.

2. Regulations limiting workers´ rights as parents or potential parents.

Pregnant workers must be treated just as you treat other employees. Never require that an employee disclose facts or plans related to pregnancy -- including a pregnancy itself. Once the baby arrives, you will also have to adhere to regulations governing maternity and paternity leave and related issues.

3. Anti-romance rules.

As a rule, unless the nature of a job necessitates it, you should avoid banning office romances. Such bans are difficult to enforce and infringe upon workers' personal freedom.

4. Rules about giving notice.

Be careful when you include this clause in the terms of service. Put it in such a way that it will not limit your legal right to fire an employee.

5. Rules requiring workers to keep information about their compensation to themselves.

Don´t include any rules that prohibit employees from discussing their salaries with one other. Labor laws protect an employee´s right to discuss such work-related issues with other employees.

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