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Best Practices For When You Revise Your Employee Handbook

When you hire new employees, you discuss the details of your practice and the job you’re offering them and let them decide if it’s worthwhile to accept a position at your facility. But changing the rules in your employee handbook for current employees can go sideways very quickly and can lead to workplace conflict.

Here’s a basic outline of how you should go about updating policies at your practice — if you do it right, your employees will accept them willingly:

Which Portions of Your Employee Handbook Could You Revise?

An employee handbook is much more than just a set of rules. Typically, it will contain sections, such as:

  • Information about the practice
  • Company values and policies
  • Benefits and entitlements
  • Legal requirements

You probably won’t change much of the information about your practice. You could — and should — alter the legal requirements as laws change. You might be able to change values, policies, and employee benefits and entitlements to suit the needs of the business, depending on how you structure your hiring process and if you have contractual obligations. 


What Reactions Should You Expect When You Alter Your Employee Handbook?

There are three primary reasons why medical, dental, optometry, and veterinarian professionals make changes to their employee handbook:

  • To keep up with local, state, and federal laws, as mentioned earlier. Employees will deem these changes necessary and likely won’t have a problem with them.
  • To reconstruct, add or remove some of your practice’s values and policies. There are several essential policies that every practice should have and if they aren’t already in your handbook, you should consider including them. Here is where you might face some pushback. Decisions such as changing your pay periods or making your attendance policy more strict may not sit well with some of your staff.
  • To add or detract benefits and entitlements. This is where you’re hitting people in their pockets. If it’s a positive change, you’re a hero, but if, for example, you’re taking away holiday pay, you’ll have to tread carefully. Your employees will perceive the thought of losing even a small entitlement as a slight at the very least.

You should review your employee handbook periodically to ensure it aligns with your practice’s mission and financial standing. Although it might be unpleasant to make changes, the following best practices will make the process as smooth as possible:

Related: Why Your Employee Handbook is Your First Line of Defense

How to Get Your Employees to Accept Your Revisions

While people dislike change, they certainly don’t appreciate surprises or when you force something on them. The more sensitive you are to your employees’ needs and feelings, the likelier they are to accept your changes:

Collaborate with Managers and Include Them in the Process.

Your first line of defense is to try to get your employees in leadership positions to understand what you’re trying to accomplish. If you could bring them to your side — at least to an extent — you’ll be off to a good start. Whether you have one or several managers, they might have a better understanding of what your employees will accept or reject.

The managers might not always agree with you. They might inform you that your proposed change won’t work and that they can’t sell it to the team. You will then have to decide if you should move forward with the issue, come up with a compromise or shelve the change entirely.

Make Sure Your Employees are Notified Well in Advance

If you give your employees time to think about your proposals, you’ll increase the probability of acceptance. Once you’ve discussed your changes with your managers, make sure they present it to the team immediately. They should bring issues and concerns back to you for further discussion.

Encourage Feedback

The only way to get everyone on board while gaining a clear understanding of their level of acceptance is by encouraging feedback. Make it easy for them — if you can figure out a way for them to share their opinions anonymously, that will help you understand and address the concerns of those who are uncomfortable with expressing themselves openly.

Circle Back with Your Managers

Before you implement your changes, be sure to discuss it once more with your managers. Now that you’re armed with information, review past discussions and feedback, weigh the benefits and detriments, and decide if the changes are worthwhile.

Obtain Employee Acknowledgment

Once you’ve distributed your handbook, set a date to collect signed acknowledgments confirming that the handbook was received and read. Each handbook should come with a ‘Confirmation of Receipt’ signature page. To protect yourself from future liability, retain copies of these documents to prove that you’ve informed your employees about your handbook policy changes. 

As an alternative to collecting individual signed pages from each employee, you can have a single signature sheet that employees sign to acknowledge that they’ve received and read the employee handbook. Set a tangible date for them to sign to ensure this task is completed in a timely manner.

Why You Should Outsource the Revision Process

While revising an employee handbook is not uncommon, you should tread lightly when doing so. You don’t want to ruin employee relationships over it because it’s not so easy to mend fences. You also don’t want to unknowingly put yourself or your practice at risk. The change process is delicate and will be much smoother when orchestrated by an outsourced company that understands the best practices to follow and legal requirements and ramifications.

At HR for Health, we understand the nuances involved in common changes, and we know how to prevent employer/employee conflicts. Contact us by phone at 877-779-4747 or by emailing compliance@hrforhealth.com for more information.

HR for Health is one of the nation’s leading Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS) used by small to mid-sized practices. 

Quick note: This is not to be taken as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws change over time and can vary by location and industry, consult a lawyer or HR expert for specific guidance. Learn about HR for Health's HR services