What are some of the pros and cons of nationwide employee policies?

We are a multi-state organization that is considering rolling out one nationwide handbook for all our employees. What are some of the pros and cons of nationwide policies?

Having a single nationwide handbook has its advantages. It can be easier for HR, payroll, and managers to understand and administer nationwide policies – such as one paid sick policy, one vacation policy, or one medical leave policy. Giving the same benefits to all employees can also improve employee morale and avoid feelings of unfairness if everyone is subject to the same policies. It can also be a recruiting tool in states where legally-mandated employee benefits and protections are sparse because, to be compliant nationwide, policies must often be more generous than what most states or localities require.

Which brings us to the cons…

To comply with varied and numerous state and local requirements, uniform nationwide policies – like time off policies – must often be way more generous (and way more financially costly) than many employers would prefer. For example, an employer may be required to pay out accrued vacation upon separation in all instances when only 18% of states actually require such a payout.

Written nationwide policies can also become unwieldly and confusing to employees when they contain multiple exceptions to comply with state and local laws. Take “No Recording” policies as an example: The NLRB takes the position that employees can record other employees if they are acting in concert for their mutual aid and protection, but in California it is a criminal offense to record a confidential communication with another person without both parties’ consent. This is an exception that employers would need to include in their nationwide Recording Policy.

Finally, extending policies nationwide can burden smaller divisions or business units and frustrate operations. For instance, applying a nationwide FMLA policy that allows for 12 or 26 weeks off to employees who work at a small location that does not have 50 employees in a 75-mile radius could place a significant burden on that location if it does not have adequate excess staffing for when multiple people are out of work for a long period of time.

Employers considering nationwide policies should take into account a broad range of issues, including business operations, employee relations, and state and local requirements to determine whether, for their particular business, the “pros” of nationwide policies outweigh the potential “cons.”

For more information on drafting and deploying nationwide or jurisdiction-specific handbook policies, please reach out to your Littler attorney.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.