Consider how many times you have told your patients some variation of the adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That same sound advice should also be applied to your practice, especially when it comes to your preparations for the coming year. As a dental entrepreneur, you are responsible for cultivating and maintaining the performance of your team, while also understanding and enforcing the HR laws that apply to your practice. Therefore, as you prepare for 2018, you should consider implementing strategies which both maximize the performance of your employees (which leads to higher profits) while also protecting your business from employment disputes. The steps you take now can protect your practice down the road, and can help to generate larger profits in the long run.
With these goals in mind, here are three crucial compliance strategies which can be easily implemented and which can have an immediate positive impact upon your practice:
Updating or Drafting a New Employment Manual
Your employment manual is your first line of defense against lawsuits and allegations of regulation violations. The manual sets rules and parameters for your team, and lays the foundation for your relationship with your employees. It discusses benefits, as well as rules for discipline and other actions for rule violations.
One mistake employers often make is to presume that the employee manual is only in place to assist and protect employees. But in practice, the employee manual offers incredible benefits to the employer. It contains updates on applicable laws and can be referenced when common issues arise such as medical leave and disability accommodations. Following the handbook ensures fairness, and prevents surprises when it comes to rules and discipline. Best of all, the handbook protects your practice from claims of discrimination when disciplinary measures are taken. As long as you follow your handbook, and you follow it consistently for all employees, then you are taking a strong step towards protecting yourself from costly labor disputes. If you do not have a handbook or if yours has not been recently updated, then now is a perfect time to draft or update a manual for your practice in 2018.
Updating Employment Contracts with Associations
Your practice should be using employment contracts with your associate dentists. If you do not have employment contracts in place, then you should draft and implement contracts immediately for the sake of your practice. If you do have a standard employment contract, you should make updates to it to ensure that it has been written in a way which both protects and benefits your practice.
One area of the employment contract which you should consider updating if necessary is the section on restrictive covenants – especially the nondisclosure provisions. Recent changes in the law have provided more flexibility to assist employers in protecting their intellectual property.
These provisions can be used as proof that your practice is taking reasonable measures to protect your valuable and confidential information, helping to ensure its protection as trade secrets in the case of a dispute. Intellectual property, or IP, can refer to patient lists, pricing, business plans, vendors, referrals and marketing data. It is extremely important for your practice to have policies in place which clearly identify what is considered a trade secret, and these agreements should be in place before an employee leaves your practice. In addition, you should have a written procedure in place which states that if an employee is terminated or leaves voluntarily, then all confidential information will be immediately returned to the practice.
In addition to protecting your IP, you should also use your employment agreements and other policies to encourage your associate dentists to invest in their own futures with your practice. Compensation and benefit policies which reward high performance and encourage investment into the practice can be beneficial to all, and can serve as recruiting tools as you look to hire new talent.
Ensuring That You Have All Required Forms for Each Employee
Our final strategy is, admittedly, a boring one. But, it is one which cannot be overlooked without great risk to your practice. Remember our theme about focusing on prevention? That rule is especially true in terms of employee forms. Did you know that there is an average of 12 required forms for each of your employees? If you suspect that you might not have all of the correct forms for your employees, or if you don’t know where those forms are, then this is the perfect time to remedy this issue.
Even if you think that you have all of the forms that you need, it is always safe to double-check. Tax forms and other related documentation rules change more often than you might expect; therefore, you should educate yourself as to what you need when hiring employees and make sure that the forms you are using are up to date. For example, did you know that a new I-9 form came out this year, and that all employers were required to use this form as of January 22, 2017? The new form includes substantive changes which can impact the information and documents required for completion. If you have not updated your forms or are using information which is out of date, now is a great time to update your documentation.
Implementing preventive strategies now can lessen your end-of-year burdens and help to smooth your transition into the new year. As 2018 approaches, take your own advice and invest into prevention to avoid spending money to remedy future issues. By focusing on compliance with HR rules and investing in the success of your employees, you are taking proactive steps towards ensuring a successful new year.
The above-listed HR strategies for making 2018 your best year yet and for accelerating the performance of your team are simple yet effective suggestions for adding to your current HR practices. For more in-depth assistance, an HR for Health Risk Assessment can identify potential HR hazards and provide you with a step-by-step action plan. This guide not only can provide reassurance that you are compliant with current law but also that you are experiencing the highest possible returns on the investments made into your team members. You can receive a complimentary copy of this document by texting “HRFH17” to 44222.
Ali Oromchian, JD, LL.M.,is a dental attorney at the Dental & Medical Counsel, PC law firm and is renowned for his expertise in legal matters pertaining to dentists. Mr. Oromchian has served as a key opinion leader and legal authority in the dental industry with dental CPAs, consultants, banks, insurance brokers and dental supplies and equipment companies. He serves as the dental lawyer for numerous dental practice management firms who rely on his expertise for their client’s businesses. You can contact him at 925-9998200 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.