The Dos and Doníts of the Employee Policy Manual
Called by many names including “Personnel Manual”, “Office Policy Manual” or “Staff Handbook”, it amounts to being a workplace document that is valued by most employers as a reliable way to convey expectations of the rights and obligations of staff to the business or employer.
When training doctors and their management team, I often ask if this document exists, who wrote it, and when it was written or updated. Most reply that it is at least as old as the practice, has been scribbled in, has crossed out sentences and loose pages added, and for the most part is a useless and maybe dangerously outdated document.
Unfortunately, many offices create their own office or employee policy manual to save money, without knowledge of the possible legal consequences that could come out of a carelessly created document. Your handbook should convey the mission, history, purpose and goals of the practice. The culture of the practice is necessary for new employees to understand, to ensure a good fit with the existing team.
Make sure the handbook is written so it complies with federal and state employment laws. If written correctly, it will minimize the potential for legal woes having to do with bad hires and termination issues.
Clarify to a new hire the expectations of employee conduct, behavior, attendance and job performance. Performance review details should be illustrated, and the discipline process and employee notifications defined for consistency of understanding. Clarify who the employee should report to for issues relating to work problems and disagreements with other staff members. It is important for the manual to be written in a clear, concise format and for team members to completely understand the language of the policies.
If you have employees who will be subject to different workplace rules from other employees, ensure there is a separate employee handbook for each type of employee. Don’t release the employee handbook until it is legally compliant. Have it either written completely by a legal HR specialist or have the current one reviewed by an attorney to be compliant with federal and state law.
Each employee’s handbook should contain their job descriptions and areas they are accountable for in the practice. The job description should be open-ended so management can decide whether to delegate new tasks or assign stated tasks to other employees. A job description is not a contract of employment.
As an employer, the dentist should be aware of legal requirement changes and trends that occur in the state. Regularly consult with experts regarding laws that may affect hiring practices. Don’t use another practices’ employee handbook as a model to develop your own, as it may not be compliant or up-to-date and may represent policies that you are not in agreement with. Some newer employee handbooks contain new rules regarding social media, cell phone, texting and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies.
Have policies in place that protect your practice from workplace safety issues, workplace violence and sexual harassment issues. Train managers or supervisors on the policies stated in the handbook and how it is to be used in the practice.
Avoid making any absolute statements or promises in the handbook, such as “After a year of continued employment you will receive a bonus of $500.” Don’t be too specific when discussing employee benefits, raises and other perks because these could change dependent upon whether the practice is operating in the black or not. Guaranteeing a yearly raise is not prudent when you don’t know if the practice can afford it.
Update the employee handbook each year to include any changes in office policy or state or federal employment law. Think of the handbook as a living document that evolves as the law, society and practice business changes and develops.
McKenzie Management has resources for expertly written and compliant Employee Policy Handbooks. To perfect your business skills, including recruiting and hiring the best employees, please call McKenzie Management today and schedule a business training course for yourself and your staff.Forward this article to a friend
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