FROM CHICAGO TIMES, 1 APRIL 2016

While employers are not required by law to provide a company handbook to employees, providing your workforce with an overview of company policies and procedures is generally considered a best practice.

An employee handbook ensures that important information (such as health benefits, disciplinary policies, and vacation accrual) is consistently shared with all workers. It also provides a ready resource for referencing such information when questions arise.

To document that all employees have received a copy of the handbook, many companies have employees sign a statement that they have read, understand, and will comply with the company policies listed in the handbook.

Some attorneys suggest, however, a simpler form that only states the employee has received the handbook and agrees to follow it, since he or she probably hasn’t read the content when signing the receipt.

So what happens when an employee refuses to sign any type of handbook receipt?

Policies still apply

Generally speaking, the policies within the handbook still apply to the employee even if he or she refuses to sign.

You may tell the employee that his or her refusal to sign will not result in an exemption from the policies contained in the handbook, and then finish by noting the date and that the employee refused to sign the receipt. The purpose of the receipt is to document that the employee was made aware of the existence of the policies, and this can still be accomplished with your notation.

The more pertinent issue, however, might be why the employee is refusing to sign. Employees refuse to sign handbook acknowledgements for a variety of reasons. Sometimes employees disagree with certain policies and have no intention of complying with them. But other times, employees don’t understand certain policies, so they don’t want to sign off that they do understand.

Even though policies apply regardless of the signature, you should ask why the employee is refusing to sign. Initiating the conversation gives you the opportunity to address any concerns the employee might have about the policies, and to potentially head off any future issues related to the policies.

Try opening the conversation with a curious, non-confrontational tone: “You are not required to sign the receipt, but you should understand that the policies will still apply to you. What is it about the policies or procedures that concerns you? The handbook is meant to be a helpful resource to you, so we want to ensure it is serving that purpose.”

The employee may expresses confusion over policies or procedures, and you will have the opportunity to clarify them. The employee may indicate that he or she cannot or will not comply with certain policies, and you will have the opportunity to discuss potential accommodations. (For example, your dress code might need to be adjusted to accommodate religious garb.)

Whatever you learn from the conversation, you will be better equipped to proactively address any future issues related to your company policies and procedures, which is arguably the point of publishing them in the first place.