Employee Handbooks: You don’t need one, until you REALLY need one

When starting a new practice, you look for every possibility to keep costs down. You are already concerned with paying the loan for the practice, your rent and your staff on top of personal expenses such as dental school loans, home mortgage, etc. Whenever there is a non-immediate expense, you look to postpone it, which is what happened to me with my employee handbook. It was always on the back burner of my mind of something to update, but I thought in the mean time, the previous owners handbook would suffice.

Dr. Hershman

Dr. Hershman

After a few years, the thought of an up-to-date employee handbook kept resurfacing. Whether it was a practice management magazine or CE course, the idea of a new employee manual was always being presented. I thought to myself, “We don’t really need one, our employees are great and we don’t have issues. We are a great big dental family.”

After a switch in payroll companies, the human resources department of the new payroll company called to discuss how they could improve the HR aspects of my business. I decided to take the plunge and invest in a new handbook. After a few phone conversations, back-and-forth email edits and a lawyer review, my handbook had arrived!

I distributed the handbook to all the employees and then placed my copy at my desk where it began to collect dust. I would glance up at it and think that was a lot of time, money and energy for a book to collect dust.

Fast-forward a few months, to a situation where an employee did not show up for work. At first the entire staff was very concerned for her wellbeing. Once we knew she was okay, the phase of anger began because everyone else had to pick up more work to make up for her absence. With two days of not showing up to work (and not calling), she decided to show up the next week. As a young business owner, I was nervous at the thought of firing an employee. Luckily, I looked at my employee handbook that had the following clause: If you are absent for one day without notifying the practice, it is assumed that you have voluntarily abandoned your position with the practice, and you will be removed from the payroll.

As the employee arrived that Monday morning, my employee handbook value increased exponentially. I was able to explain that she was no longer an employee here because she gave up her position, instead of having a conversation that I was going to have to fire her. I referred to the manual and was able to show her exactly where it states this in the handbook. My costly handbook became a very reasonable expense as it made my experience as a boss so much less stressful.

For more information on managing a dental team, visit the Center for Professional Success.

Editor’s note: The author is not a lawyer and this post is not intended to provide legal advice. Federal, state and/or local law may limit an employer’s ability to take action against an employee in certain circumstances. The reader is advised to seek appropriate, local legal counsel before proceeding in any fashion suggested by this post.

Dr. Jessica Hershman is a New Dentist Now guest blogger from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is a 2012 graduate of Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry and has two general dentistry practices outside of Philadelphia with her father, Dr. Hal Hershman. She is a member of the ADA, PDA, and actively involved with the Montgomery-Bucks Dental Society. When she’s not working, she can be found outside running on the nearest trail, trying a new restaurant in Center City, or rooting for the Penn State football team. 

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