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Your Burning Employee Handbook Update Questions Answered – Why, How, and How Often?

An employee handbook serves many purposes for dental, optometry, veterinary, and medical practices. This valuable manual informs employees of your practice's policies and expectations while protecting you against potential HR issues and resulting lawsuits.

However, in order to be effective, you need to ensure that your handbook is up-to-date. As time passes, not only will your practice grow and change, but so will federal, state, and local laws. So, whether your practice is still using the same handbook you created in 2010, or you're using a generic handbook you found following a Google search, you need to update it. 

Your practice's handbook needs to address current policies and laws that relate to your industry, as well as your geographical location and company culture. 

Not sure how or when to update your employee handbook? Unsure whether or not your current handbook will protect you against potential future issues? HR for Health is here to help. Read on to learn why every practice needs to continually update its handbook while also developing a strong HR strategy to ensure all employees enjoy the best work environment possible. 

Why Every Practice Needs to Update Their Handbook

Did you know that workplace class action settlements set new records in 2021? Unfortunately, the new record set for the total amount of workplace class action settlements was around $3.62 billion. That's compared to $1.58 billion in 2020 and $1.34 billion the year before that. All things considered, remaining up-to-date with your practice policies and rules is a must. One of the best ways to avoid settlements in your practice is to implement a thorough employee handbook that outlines all rules, expectations, and legalities. 

An effective employee handbook is essentially a manual that communicates your practice's mission, rules, policies, and values. When writing your handbook, keep the following in mind — who you are as a practice, how you function, and what you expect from your employees. 

While there is no law that requires you to have a handbook, creating one could protect you in the future. These handbooks act as a playbook and lessen threats. If issues were to arise, a great handbook is a place to turn to — and when it comes to common HR issues, why blur the lines?

Although an employee handbook does not guarantee compliance from your dental, optometric, veterinarian, and medical employees, and it's not a formal contract, a well-written employee handbook will provide clarity and can protect your practice if legal action is ever taken, such as an anti-discrimination lawsuit. 

Laws Change

Laws change over time which is why you'll want to stay in the know, keeping up with city, municipality, state, and federal rules and regulations. While this can be tough, it's imperative that you stay in the know. For example, family-leave requirements, state and local sick-leave laws, and accommodation laws all change regularly. Therefore, it is essential that you stay up-to-date on these law changes and update your handbook accordingly to keep your practice protected against potential complaints or litigation. 

This is particularly relevant in select states, such as California, where employment laws change frequently. For example, in the state of California, it is illegal to have a "use it or lose it" paid-time-off policy. Significant changes have also been made to the California Family Rights Act. 

If you're not sure where to start when it comes to updating your employee handbook or staying up-to-date with the latest law change, HR for Health can help. To learn more, schedule a consultation today!

Recommended Reading: California Expands Employee Rights to Family and Medical Leave 

Technology Changes

Technology places an immense role in our everyday lives, so it's not uncommon for dental, optometry, veterinary, and medical practices to create a policy surrounding cell phone use. If you do not allow your team members to use their phones in front of patients already and have made that clear, it's important to consider other forms of technology. For example, Apple watches allow employees to receive messages, calls, etc. This is why you'll need to update your equipment and technology policies to keep up with the times. 

Your Burning Employee Handbook Update Questions Answered – Why, How, and How Often?

As new forms of technology arise, including the latest social media platforms and data privacy policies, you'll need to address those changes in your handbook. For example, does your veterinary practice handbook still reference MySpace? If so, you need to update this section within your handbook and any associated laws and acts. The National Labor Relations Act or NLRA is a good resource to use when looking to make up-to-date changes to your employee handbooks or to discover how to ensure that your practice is implementing the best workplace democracy. 

Culture Changes

As your practice grows, you'll have different needs. As a result, the policies that once worked for your startup practice may no longer represent your current needs. For example, if you began with one dental hygienist and an office assistant and now have ten employees, you'll need to adjust your policies accordingly. 

If you know your practice is in need of a culture change but don't know how to go about implementing one, HR for Health can help get your practice on the right track. To learn more, schedule a consultation today!

Company Changes

Again, as your practice grows, you'll need to consider different laws. There are unique laws in place for different-sized employers. Although you may not have met the thresholds for specific leave types when you initially created your handbook, you may now meet key thresholds. In this case, new policies and leave types will need to be added to your handbook.

For example, while the Equal Pay Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act apply to employers of all sizes, only those with 50+ employees need to consider laws surrounding the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Affordable Care Act, etc.

It's also important to remain mindful of practice policies vs. handbook policies. For example, if your handbook states that bereavement leave will only be paid for the death of an immediate family member, but your practice has allowed paid leave for the death of individuals who are not immediate family members, you could face discrimination issues if an employee is later denied similar leave based on your written policy. 

How Often Should a Handbook Be Updated?

Even in 2022, the effects of the initial COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020 are still lingering. The pandemic drastically altered the healthcare industry and continues to do so. That is why you should be updating your employee handbook at least once a year in order to keep up with the ever-changing health care industry. Not only will this allow you to keep up with law changes, but also changes in regard to your growing practice. 

In most cases, changes won't be drastic, and additions won't be extensive. However, they'll need to be documented. If you implement major changes in the middle of the year, update your handbook then. There's no need to wait until the end of the year to make changes, as this can increase your risk of HR complications. 

Should Employees Be Informed of a Handbook Update?

The short answer here is yes. Employees should always be informed of changes.

Whenever you alter a section or any number of policies, your employees need to be informed. To cover yourself, you can either give out a new hard copy of the handbook (which is ideal when numerous changes have been made); or electronically send out an addendum that clearly states the changes made, including the effective date.

Your Burning Employee Handbook Update Questions Answered – Why, How, and How Often?

However, in this day and age, many practices are moving their handbooks online. This makes it much easier to make regular changes without needing to reissue new printed handbooks. If this is the approach you have taken, send out notifications via email. Then, to ensure you are legally covered, have employees electronically sign documents confirming that they have received and reviewed the latest policies. 

HR for Health makes it easy to notify employees when your handbook is updated via messages, emails, and printable templates. If you're ready to learn more about how HR for Health can help your practice stay up-to-date with changing laws and regulations, schedule a consultation today!

How Do You Update an Employee Handbook?

Whether you own a chiropractor clinic, dentistry, optometry, veterinary practice, or any other type of medical practice, you specialize in the healthcare services you offer. For many practice owners, HR policies can be daunting, but they don't need to be when you partner with an HR specialist. 

Recommended Reading: HR Doesn't Have to Be Scary 

An HR specialist will walk you through the process, ensuring that you have all the most up-to-date policies in your state and municipality. Information from your previous handbooks can be added to the updated handbook template as well.

When you're ready to update your employee handbook, it's recommended that you work with an HR specialist to ensure that you include the latest law updates and that all of your policies are in full compliance. 

How HR for Health Can Help

The COVID-19 outbreak, along with its lingering effects, has likely opened your eyes when it comes to possible HR issues. While many policies and laws were already in place, it wasn't until a global pandemic occurred that many dental, optometry, veterinary, and medical practices began to take notice. With this in mind, taking a proactive approach could make all the difference when it comes to being prepared for the future. We completely understand that you don’t want any type of potential HR issues to tarnish your good reputation. Therefore, the best way to avoid any of these issues or even the threat of litigation down the road is to begin taking preventative action today. 

HR for Health empowers practices with the tools needed to manage your HR needs with confidence. Whether you are dealing with employee conflict, legal compliance, poor performance, or aiming to prevent them, HR for Health offers a wide range of unique software features, including a customized employee handbook. 

Created to meet your specialty, individual practice culture, and state regulations, these handbooks have been developed by both HR specialists and employment attorneys, ensuring compliance. Best of all, annual updates and revisions are included at no additional cost, so you can gain peace of mind while remaining within your budget.

In addition, with many new laws going into effect on July 1, 2022, it's essential to make sure that your employee handbook is still up-to-date. Many of these law updates undoubtedly triggered the need for a handbook policy update or the need for a new policy altogether. 

If you're still wondering how to put together a well-designed HR strategy that is up to date with all laws and human resources best practices, it's time to connect with HR for Health today.

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