Creating an equitable employee handbook
Your employee handbook is an important resource for your company’s leadership and employees. Its objective is to establish and clarify organizational policies and explain how employees can succeed in your company. That said, to make everyone in the company feel included, you need to make sure you create an equitable employee handbook.
What is equity?
Before writing the handbook, you need to understand the concept of equity in the workplace. At a very high level, it means taking into account that not all employees have the same skill set and backgrounds — and therefore to create a level playing field by providing individuals with the means to develop themselves and thrive.
Assess your language for equity
One of the most important aspects of creating an equitable employee handbook is to use gender-inclusive language. A growing number of companies are using the gender-neutral pronoun “they” instead of “he” or “she” because it includes non-binary individuals. The United Nations offers helpful guidelines on using gender-inclusive language.
Assess your policies for equity
Exactly how you establish equitable policies will depend on your organization’s decision makers, but here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Consider providing flexible holidays. While there are several federal holidays you can include, you can also offer some flexible days off so employees can celebrate the important holidays of their specific religion or ethnicity.
- Consider a flexible family leave policy. Don’t assume that women are the primary caregivers in their home. Family dynamics are evolving, with fathers participating more in child rearing and both parents acting as caregivers for elderly parents. So there can be a range of different reasons an employee might need time off, from paternity leave to taking care of a parent who had a stroke.
- Consider offering multiple employee development paths. Employees might not have had the same opportunities to develop skills, so it’s important to be flexible in regard to offering training. For example, someone who comes from an affluent background might have had more time as a student to engage in public speaking training than an employee who had to work to pay for high school and college. In a situation like this, it could be a career changer to provide public speaking training to the second individual.
It’s important to keep in mind that any type of favoritism in your employee handbook will undermine your efforts to create an equitable organizational culture. So think carefully about the language you use and the policies you establish, and be prepared to revise the handbook over time if organizational or societal developments demand it.
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