As the year end approaches it’s time to revisit your employee handbook and incorporate any updates reflecting changes in the law or your company’s practices.

At first, I thought this year only had a few minor handbook edits needed, including:

  • Add the word “stalking” to protections for domestic violence victims.
  • Expand the protections for victims of serious crimes.
  • Make sure that the harassment policy prohibits harassment that is broader than just sexual harassment, and includes examples of prohibited conduct not based on sexual desire.
  • Add “military or veteran status” to the list of protected categories in your EEO policy.
  • Add a provision regarding the new Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance if you have more than 20 employees and operate in San Francisco.

Yet, there is another sleeper issue involving the commencement of health benefits under AB 1083. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers required to provide health insurance coverage do so within a maximum of 90 days. However, California employers with fully insured plans (as opposed to self-insured plans) must provide health insurance coverage within a maximum of 60 days, not 90 days.

If your handbook provides for an Introductory (or Probationary) Period of 90 days (as many do), and provides benefits at the conclusion of that Introductory Period, then that provision must be updated.

This leaves employers in a bit of a quandary: Does it make sense to provide medical benefits at 60 days, but other benefits (such as paid holidays, vacation, or PTO) at 90 days? Or should employers change the Introductory Period and all related benefits to 60 days?

Also, keep in mind if you extend the Introductory or Probationary Period due to poor performance, you still cannot postpone the availability of health benefits without facing serious penalties.

All the more reason to thoughtfully revisit your handbook now to be ready January 2014!