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How practice owners can encourage safe, off-duty conduct this holiday without infringing on employees’ privacy

November 10, 2020 6120

The holiday season is here and as team members make plans to celebrate with friends and family, practice owners may be concerned about whether employees are following COVID-19 safety precautions outside of the workplace and what effect it could have on the dental practice.

Before taking any action regarding employees’ activities outside of work, practice owners should ensure they’re aware of California’s privacy laws that protect workers from being disciplined for lawful off-duty activities. Prohibiting employees from participating in activities that do not violate the law could raise possible compliance concerns under lawful off-duty statutes and anti-discrimination laws.

The following tips can help practice owners protect their staff, patients, and dental office without the risk of violating employees’ privacy rights.

Enforce COVID-19 safety protocols in the workplace

Monitoring whether employees are wearing masks and social distancing outside of work could place an undue hardship on the employer and lead to disgruntled employees who believe they are being overpoliced in their personal lives.

It would be more manageable for employers to focus on safety measures that reduce disease transmission in the workplace rather than trying to keep up with what employees are doing during their off-hours. 

Screen employees every day before each shift, assign designated areas for donning and doffing PPE, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and ensure team members are practicing social distancing in areas outside of the operatory, such as the break room.

Avoid speculating about employees’ off-duty behavior

Employers may learn of employees’ off-duty activities through social media or in the office as staff discusses their holiday plans with one another. Although practice owners have an obligation to maintain a safe work environment, they should be cautious not to act on speculation and accuse employees of not following safety protocols outside of work.

Rather than assuming, practice owners should ask employees to monitor themselves for any potential symptoms, immediately notify management if they believe they may be infected, and adhere to CDC guidelines on self-quarantining and seeking a diagnosis.

Educate staff of potential risks

Employers should educate staff about the risks of not following CDC guidelines and discuss how their behavior outside of work could impact the safety of the practice, their colleagues, and patients.

It would be beneficial for practice owners to review the office’s values with team members, set expectations, and clearly define the role team members play in maintaining a safe workplace. Lastly, employers should model best practices in and out of the dental office to encourage employees to be safe and comply with COVID-19 safety protocols when off duty.

How to establish a new travel and other conduct policy for the dental practice during the pandemic offers travel safety tips and recommendations on how to reintegrate employees back into the workplace after returning from vacation.

CDA’s practice management resources feature additional guidance on implementing COVID-19 safety protocols into the practice, employee screening, and contact tracing.

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