Your staff – the lifeblood of the practice

They’re the faces that patients see first, a key element in the customer service experience that you offer and, as such, a valuable asset. It pays to make sure they are looked after

18 December, 2018 / professional-focus
 

The dentists in the practice are important. Ultimately, they are the ones who treat the patients, and whose skill, care and professional abilities are an essential element of the service provided to your patients. However, you can have the best dental team but still fall short of a first-class delivery to patients if you don’t have a wider workforce who do all that they can to ensure that every patient who walks through the practice door goes away having had the best possible experience.

As lawyers, we can’t really assist you with securing the best staff for your practice. However, there are some simple steps that you can take to avoid some pitfalls on the staff front.

  • Staff contracts – Here we go, lawyers going on about paperwork again! However, there is a good reason for that. Having recruited someone who you hope will be a great addition to the team, you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot by issuing them with a deficient employment contract, or indeed not issuing one at all (which is a breach of employment legislation, with stringent penalties which apply). So make sure that you use a well-drafted contract from a reliable source.
  • Tailor the contract – The fact that you are given a style of contract doesn’t mean that it fits the bill for all staff members. Before giving it to your new employee, read it through, make sure that it suits that particular position, and reflects the employment terms that you have agreed. You may be amazed at the number of occasions where we see contracts that don’t reflect reality, sometimes with major discrepancies (such as working hours being wrong, holiday entitlement being unclear, etc).
  • Record changes – Often the initial terms of an employee will change over time. We’re not talking about salary reviews here, more changes such as someone going to part-time, changing their working hours, even changing role (for example, someone going from being a receptionist to practice manager). In such cases, the changes aren’t always recorded. However, they should be for sake of clarity. If it is a small change, such as working hours, this can be recorded in a simple letter from the practice owner, which is acknowledged by the employee. In more major moves, such as job changes, it may be more suitable to issue a fresh contract. Either way, the new position should be recorded before the time that the change takes effect, so as to avoid any dubiety going forward.
  • Follow the terms – It may be an obvious point, but having put in place employment terms for each employee, you shouldn’t allow people to drift away from those terms over time. As an example, we sometimes see situations where a specific employee has been allowed to leave early on a particular day to collect their children from school without their salary being changed. There is nothing wrong with that in practice, but if a shortened working week on the same salary becomes the norm over time, it can become contractual.
  • Staff handbooks and policies – Again, a potential source of difficulty. Handbooks and policies are often procured from a third party, and in itself there is no difficulty with that. However, once again you should ensure that they actually reflect how you work in practice. Don’t just assume that they will be fine because they are seen as a standard document. Details in handbooks and policies can come back to haunt an employer in the future if they aren’t drawn up for the specific practice.

All of these pitfalls are avoidable, all you need is a organised system for your employment documents which is implemented for all staff, with advice being sought where necessary.


For further information please contact:
Michael Royden
Partner for Thornton’s Solicitors
Tel:  01382 346222
mroyden@thorntons-law.co.uk

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