Put employee policies in place with CDA resource

Having a current employee manual should be a top priority for employers. It establishes the foundation for a successful employment relationship by defining practice values, behavioral expectations and workplace standards. It also provides employees with office policies, employee rights and obligations, safety regulations and laws with which they are responsible for complying. Studies have shown that employees become more productive and feel a sense of pride and belonging when employers set the standard from the onset of the employment relationship.

Consider it a GPS for navigating the complex landscape of employment laws. While having an employee manual isn’t required by law, many federal and state laws and some local laws require written policies. Mandatory state and local paid sick leave, harassment and discrimination and meal and rest break policies are examples of the numerous policies that by law must be written.

Furthermore, a complete manual should advise employees of their various leave entitlements, such as Pregnancy Disability Leave, personal leaves of absence, jury duty or the Family and Medical Leave Act. The absence of an employee manual or a poorly developed one puts practice owners at a disadvantage to defend themselves should they face a lawsuit. Employers who have a thoughtful and compliant manual demonstrate that they have shown reasonable care in leading and communicating with their employees.

A manual is an important part of fostering a more transparent relationship with the employee. Educating employees on what they can expect from employers means showcasing provided benefits, including eligibility for benefits and how they are managed within the practice and providing direction when employees need help reporting workplace violations.

When CDA Practice Support receives calls from practice owners with questions about employment law, such as how to manage employee leave of absence requests, holiday and vacation pay and paid sick leave, often, the first question is, “What’s your policy?” Many of the answers are found easily within the pages of the practice’s employee manual. Without sound policies documented in an employee manual, management of requests and requirements is subject to becoming arbitrary, subjective and unevenly enforced, which puts an employer at risk for a lawsuit or complaint.

Keep policies simple, but include the details
Policies don’t have to be complex to be effective and compliant. Policies should not be unrealistic and impossible to enforce. For example, they should be clear and include hours of work, whom to contact when an unscheduled absence arises, vacation eligibility and request requirements, expectations and management of any overtime, and meal and rest break requirements. Overcomplicated policies confuse employees and are difficult for employers to manage.  

Update annually and obtain an acknowledgement
Employment laws, court decisions and the needs of the practice change often. When policy changes are necessary, provide employees with a copy of the updated policy and obtain a signed acknowledgement of receipt. Some changes can be unpopular and employees can often push back. It’s a common assumption that by not signing the acknowledgment they are not held accountable for following and complying with standards, policies and procedures contained in the manual. The acknowledgement addresses receipt and understanding of the information and helps to prove that an employee was notified of the change, should they ever challenge that. Employees should understand that policies will be in effect regardless of whether they agree or disagree with these policies. They also should understand the consequences of non-compliance, but employers should strive to always obtain an acknowledgement of receipt.

Follow practice policies consistently
Refer to the manual when answering employee questions, reviewing employee performance and providing feedback or discipline and be consistent with the management of all employees. Confusion arises when employers do not follow the policies in the manual consistently or when the manual is silent with regard to conduct or expectations. Ill feelings, distrust and potential issues can arise when employees perceive unfair practices, inconsistently applied policies or discrimination.

Updated Sample Employee Manual from CDA
An up-to-date “Sample Employee Manual” and “Practice Policy Revision Employee Acknowledgment Template” are available on cda.org/practicesupport for CDA members. Although attorneys have reviewed the content of the employee manual and acknowledgement template for compliance, due to the ever-changing nature of employment law and its application to a specific practice, CDA recommends that once the practice develops its employee manual it should have an employment attorney review it to ensure compliance with state, federal and local law.

Find the updated “Sample Employee Manual” and “Practice Policy Revision Employee Acknowledgement Template” at cda.org/resources.

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