An employee manual or handbook is a must-have for any dental practice owner. It sets clear expectations about policy and provides need-to-know information regarding benefits and procedures. It allows everyone to be on the same page at the outset of the employee-employer relationship.
In the age of COVID-19, certain safety protocols in the dental office are more important than ever, and incorporating those policies into your employee handbook shows new hires just how critical those safety requirements really are.
Below are some additional reasons that an employee manual is critical for your dental practice in 2022.
1. It communicates dental practice culture.
Getting a new employee acclimated to your practice’s culture is perhaps one of the most important aspects of having a successful hire. An employment manual is a great place to communicate company culture. For example, you can emphasize certain aspects of your practice that are critically important, including things like patient care, safety, and confidentiality. You can also specifically set out your mission and values as part of the employee manual.
For instance, if having a coherent, social team is important to your practice, you can include a list of regular social outings right in your employee manual. Language emphasizing the team mentality of your office can be included as well. While communicating general policies is important, some of this “soft” information can help establish a good relationship with your new employee right away.
Employees are more inclined today than ever before to move jobs if they cannot find the right fit. Having an overview of practice culture included as part of the employee manual can set some expectations upfront about what an employee will experience when they join your team.
2. It emphasizes new policies and procedures (especially related to safety and COVID-19).
COVID-19 has forced a lot of changes in dental practices. In some parts of the country, practices were closed completely for a period of time. Today, most have reopened, but they have to abide by specific health and safety standards. The employee manual can be a good place to set out all the new policies and procedures you have adopted because of COVID-19. You can also specifically set out the process for creating new procedures or responding to future shutdowns or service limitations as well.
The handbook is also a great place to set out specific policies about high-risk individuals, such as how to communicate the employee’s status as a high-risk individual and the protocols for developing accommodations for these individuals. You can also set out any policies you have created relating to leave and vacation based on COVID-19, including how you will respond to a positive COVID test and what options employees have for paid time off if a loved one contracts COVID-19.
3. It provides evidence of policies and procedures if legal disputes arise.
An employee manual should be comprehensive so that it addresses virtually every policy you have in your office. You and your team should also make a commitment to following it and updating it as necessary.
By creating specific policies in the employee manual and following them, you develop a document that provides good evidence if a legal dispute arises. For example, you can set out disciplinary policies, how to request accommodations, anti-harassment policies, and a lot more. By showing you have these policies and following them, you can curtail a lot of legal disputes related to employment down the road.
4. It creates consistency and transparency across your dental practice.
A comprehensive employee manual provides critical information to all levels of employees. It ensures everyone has the same information, and it is presented in the exact same format. When someone has a question about a policy, they have a ready and available resource to determine the answers to their inquiries.
Providing this information to new employees also allows you, as a dental practice owner, to ensure that specific legally required information is provided to them. You can confirm, for example, that employees were aware of harassment and discrimination policies long before they become an issue.
Unfortunately, discrimination claims across the United States continue to be high—there are thousands every year—and having clear policies on these hot button issues is critical for all employers.
5. It sets out clear requirements and expectations regarding remote work policies.
With an increase of employees wanting to work from home (or remotely from any location), having a clear remote work policy is also important.
As a professional service industry, dental practices do not have a lot of options to move positions to remote-only work. However, they can create flex positions that might allow some staff members to work from home occasionally, such as doing patient reporting and other administrative tasks. Some positions are also more conducive to working from home, such as bookkeeping or general office administration.
Whatever your policy may be, including clear language about working from home as part of your employee manual communicates expectations at the outset of your working relationship with the new member of your team.
6. It provides an overview of what employees can expect from you and other management.
A well-written employee manual will also set out what employees can expect from you. As a dental practice owner, you have the option to provide an overview of your specific leadership or management style. If you are very hands-on about a specific aspect of your firm, the handbook is a great place to communicate that—the same can be said about certain portions of the practice that you want others to handle.
For example, if you do not come to the office every third Thursday, you can specifically provide in the employee manual that only appointments that do not involve you should be scheduled on that particular day. You can also provide information on hours, pay periods, rest and break period policies, timekeeping requirements, and a lot more.
7. It showcases the benefits you have to offer.
Employees today are especially interested in the benefits you have to offer, from paid time off to options for professional development. Your employee manual can communicate all of these benefits, including the processes you use to obtain them or to request a specific benefit. Having all of this information in one central location can also help you with recruiting and keeping employees once they have been hired.
According to some of the most recent polls, employees most value paid time off, flexible and remote working options, and paid family leave. Ensuring you can show new and prospective employees that you have these benefits can help with hiring and retention.
8. It provides a good place to communicate updated policies and procedures, so everyone (including you) has a handy reference document.
Although you should make announcements when policies change, the employee manual is a great place to include updates to any policies you may have in place. It provides a helpful “catch-all” resource for your entire team—including you.
When a policy changes, you can update it in the handbook and refer to it as necessary to refresh yourself on specific rules you have created. Keeping up with changes in policies can be tough, even when you were the one that created the change. Having an up-to-date employee manual is a great resource for dental practice owners who want to ensure they are following their own policies (that were developed using an HR solution, like HR for Health, to follow state and federal employment laws). HR for Health is the #1 and ONLY HR software dedicated to helping medical and dental practices. Stay compliant all while improving employee performance.
Simply having an employee manual is not really enough for your dental practice. Instead, you need to ensure that your manual is comprehensive, clear, and includes all of the required policies based on state and federal law.
Dental and Medical Counsel can help you craft an employee manual that meets your unique needs. Contact our office to learn more or to schedule an appointment with a member of our team.
At Dental & Medical Counsel, PC, we understand dentists have trouble navigating the legal process. We believe every dentist deserves the best advice and service so doctors can do what they do best, treat their patients. We make dentists' lives easier by providing expert guidance, so they can focus on their personal and professional aspirations.
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