Most of our relationships, whether personal or professional, are heavily reliant on trust. We trust each other to do our jobs. We trust that our positive actions will be reciprocated by those close to us. We trust each other to be, well, trustworthy. And most times, our trust is rewarded by like-minded people who share our values and things do go smoothly.
Except when they don’t.
No one likes to think that someone they have trusted in the past, and whom they trust today, might do something to break that trust in the future. Or to assume that you’re all on the same page, only to find that you are going in one direction, and the other person is going a different way. But situations do change, people’s priorities over time can become inconsistent with yours. Sometimes the best possible outcome is to part company and wish each other well.
Like buying insurance to protect your home in the event of a fire, it’s important that your practice be protected in the event an issue arises with a member of your team. Having safeguards in place doesn’t mean you anticipate something bad happening. Instead, safeguards are meant to protect you if something happens. So what do these safeguards look like?
The Employee Handbook
The most basic, and most-often overlooked, safeguard is an employee handbook. It may seem like overkill to have a handbook if you don’t have hundreds of employees. The fact is that implementing a properly drafted handbook is a best practice even if you only have one employee. And if your practice crosses state lines, you actually need to have handbooks that specifically reflect the laws of each individual state.
Employee handbooks spell out what is legally required of you, the employer, by federal, state and local laws. This includes information related to Federal and/or State mandated leave laws, non-discrimination policies, anti-harassment policies, and workers’ compensation. They also lay out how things work within an individual business – like your practice! Things like time-keeping procedures, how vacation and sick time are allocated, and general information related to the benefits you provide to your employees. And, as importantly, employee handbooks outline what you, the employer, expect of your employees, including attendance and punctuality policies, workplace conduct, and use of company equipment and technology.
Many components of an employee handbook are pretty straightforward. But EmployShare recommends against a practice owner writing their own handbook. Why? Because if you’re not careful, an employee handbook may be used against you in cases like wrongful termination. Language matters, and if you’re not an HR expert, it’s best to turn over this task to someone who is.
Once written, it’s important that your employee handbook be referenced and applied consistently within your practice. And, having a professional human resource consultant interpret the policies of that handbook is essential. We have found that most liability is created in the delivery of the interpretation. Have you ever watched a football game, and a rule comes into play where the two sides disagree? Who decides the correct ruling? The referee! It also takes an unbiased third party to best interpret and deliver policy matters between and employee and employer. EmployShare has experts who can play this role for your practice.
We will review your handbook periodically to ensure it reflects the current status of applicable federal, state, and local laws, as well as the policies important to your unique business. An example of this is the burgeoning social media world. Are you okay with your employees using social media and the internet during work hours? What about an employee who has a blog they write on their own time? Is it a positive reflection of your business? Are you okay with an employee mentioning your business in their social media postings? Don’t wait until you encounter an issue to address it in your handbook! EmployShare can help.
Another important safeguard is the collection and filing of employee documents. Some of these documents are legally required, including the proper form/documentation to verify an individual’s eligibility to work in the United States, federal, state, and local tax forms, and state-specific workers’ compensation requirements. Other documents are specific to your business and to that employee’s particular job, like a job description, the employee’s job application, their performance appraisals, etc. Did you know that medical documentation should not be included in an employee’s personnel file? Or that Form I-9’s (Employment Eligibility Verification) must also be kept separate from an employee’s personnel file? Or that in many states an employee is permitted by law to have access to what is in their individual personnel file? Don’t get tripped up by requirements in this important area. EmployShare can help you establish an effective employee documentation system specifically relevant to your practice.
Things NOT to do
In addition to the HR things you should do, like having an updated employee handbook and well-organized employee files, there are certain things you shouldn’t do – unless you want to run the risk of discrimination accusations. You may know that you shouldn’t ask someone their age in an interview. But did you know you can’t ask a potential employee about the year they graduated from high school? Since most people graduate from high school when they are 17 or 18, asking them the year can be inferred that you are asking their age. And although you will ask for verification once they are hired that they are eligible to work in the United States, you can’t ask a potential employee that question directly during an interview. Seems confusing? It can be. EmployShare can help you navigate the legal ins and outs of the hiring process from start to finish.
The HR requirements of any business owner, large or small, are complicated. Do you want to spend your time researching what you’re required to do in your particular state, or do you want to spend your time with your clients? We’re here to help you. Contact Dan D’Alio at 330-856-9770 or email@example.com.