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What Dentists Need to Know About Employee Handbooks


There are many dental employers who mistakenly believe that by providing a new Employee Handbook and a signed acknowledgement form is the same as a new employee-employer contract or agreement. Dentists should realize that, although the employee handbooks plays an integral part in the employer-employee understanding of policies within their office, for the most part, employee handbooks are not enforceable in the same manner as an employment contract that is prepared by an employment lawyer.

Some employers will write and attach the employee handbook into the employment contract for new employees. This would be an example of an employee handbook with a better chance of being enforced – but this would not extend to any updates to the handbook.

In many cases, it a best practice to include a disclaimer with your employee handbook that states, for example: “none of the statements or policies contained in this handbook should be construed as a contract” or “this handbook is not a contract or a guarantee of employment and does not change the long-standing right of either party to terminate the employment relationship with or without cause.” Statements like this help the employee and the employer use the handbook for its proper purposes.

The purpose of effective employee handbooks

The best employee handbooks are provided for informational purposes. They should provide employees with clearly written, well organized and generalized summaries of the organizational materials such as: your mission, vision and values, references to the daily operations manual, employment policies, vacation policies, hours of work, regulatory policies, employee benefits and much more. Don’t include too much more information because you want employees to read the whole handbook from cover to cover and agree to abide by the terms contained within it.

Checklist for effective employee handbook implementation

1. The Employee handbook should be consistent in tone with the mission and values that your office wants to convey to all staff and all patients.
2. Policies referenced in employee handbook are compliant and updated to current legislation, the ESA (Employment Standards Act)
3. Employee handbook is clearly written and well organized.
4. Employee handbook is clear and concise.
5. Employee handbook is updated on a regular basis and old versions are replaced. Employees should sign a new letter of acceptance when this occurs.
6. Handbook is available to all employees onsite or online with a private login. The handbooks should not leave the office as they contain private information about your office policies.
7. All employees have been given a copy of the employee handbook and acknowledgement forms for handbook are kept on file. Meetings held with employees to provide opportunity for feedback and questions regarding the handbook.
8. Process for updating changes to handbook is in place and communicated with employees.

Your employee handbook exists for your employees as much as it does for your dental office. A clear and straightforward employee handbook is a great tool to demonstrate consistency, fairness and transparency to the whole team. It is well worth taking the time to create your employee handbook internally in order to create your team’s unique terms of reference for working at your dental office. This helps to clear the path to understanding and gets everyone working together.

Ref: HR Advisory

About author
Sandie Baillargeon is a leading authority on how to increase the effectiveness of medical and dental business systems. Ms. Baillargeon is author of two text books, Dental Office Administration and The Canadian Dental Office Administrator, published by ITP Nelson Canada. Sandie is the owner and operator of Dental Office Consulting Services, which specializes in dental business planning, staff development, consulting and continuing education seminars. Visit her website at www.dentalofficeconsulting.com or contact her directly at (905) 336-7624.
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