This has been unprecedented times that no one could have predicted. If someone would have told you a few months ago that you would have to close your practice, wear a mask to the grocery store and have your drinks with friends over zoom-you would NEVER have believed it!
This situation has given us time to reflect and consider what we could have done differently in the face of this pandemic.
What has COVID-19 taught us when it comes to Human Resources?
We can take this situation as a fantastic learning experience for what we can do better in the future!
To get started, let’s talk about employment contracts or employment agreements. This pandemic has made many practice owners look over their employment agreements to see what was really included in the contract to protect the practice in the event of a circumstance like this. When reviewing your contract, does your employment agreement have a temporary layoff or furlough clause in case there is some sort of emergency that requires you to close the practice for a period of time, and request your employees to take a period of unpaid time off?
Or even further, do you even have a written employment agreement? Because we sometimes see practices that have been in business for 20 or 30 years that still have an original employee who never signed an employment agreement when they started with the practice in the first place, and haven't implemented a written contract in any of the time since. They had that initial handshake and that was it.
One of the main things to keep in mind when wanting to implement new contracts for your team, is remember you have to provide something as adequate consideration before you can offer a current employee a new contract. Consideration is a legal term that describes one of two instances. Either you have a promise to do something that you are not legally required to do, or you have a promise to not do something that you have the legal right to do. Usually consideration in this case, when we are talking about employment contracts and taking an employee from a verbal contract into a written contract would be something like a raise, or potentially a onetime sizable signing bonus or an increase in paid vacation time. So those are the most common ones, but it's important to remember that signing bonuses must be related to the employee's current length of service at your organization. (So for example, a $50 signing bonus isn't going to cut it for an employee that's been with you for 15 years, but a $5,000 signing bonus plus an extra week of annual paid vacation time might be considered sufficient.) Many are thinking since all this happened, now is a good time to convert from a verbal agreement to a written agreement, make sure you talk with your employment lawyer to ensure that you are offering an appropriate agreement to your presently hired employees. We recommend reading through your employee handbooks and seeing that you have an emergency office closure policy, a temporary layoff or furlough policy, and a change of hour policy.
Another thing to consider is that most offices don't have a remote working policy in place because the nature of the work is not generally offsite or outside of the practice. However, during this pandemic, we saw plenty of administrators, front desk staff, and even some assistants and hygienists that have had to do some work from home as they use this time to catch up on paperwork that has been piling up for months. Make sure if you're implementing a remote working policy, that there is a strong reminder of the importance of your commitment to privacy of your patient information, and that you'd probably be best off creating a VPN for your team to access these files outside of the office.
We understand that this is a lot of information and can seem overwhelming. We are here to give you the tools and resources to help you get through this time.
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