by Kathryn Pulkrabek
Creating an employee office manual may seem like an overwhelming experience, but you have more knowledge than you realize. It’s just a matter organizing and writing down policies and procedures that you already use every day. Your office manager can be a valuable source of knowledge in compiling and reviewing your employee office manual.
To help you get started, here are five must-have policies to include in your employee office manual:
1) Personal appearance and dress code
A professional-looking staff promotes unity and teamwork at the most basic level. Yet surprisingly, your idea of a professional appearance may differ from that of your staff. Whether your staff is outfitted in matching uniforms or clothing of their choice, you should provide clear ground rules of what is permissible and what is not. Does your current policy discuss things such as cleanliness, jewelry (including body piercings), makeup, and footwear? Is there language that addresses accommodations for employees who need to dress a specific way due to religious beliefs? These are all things you should consider including.
Your vacation policy should clarify who gets what days off and when. If you calculate vacation days differently for full-time and part-time staff, it is helpful to include a chart with the number of days off and how they are accrued. A list of holidays on which the office will be closed, such as Memorial Day and Labor Day, is a handy resource that staff can reference. Be sure to update it if you add or remove holidays.
Your vacation policy should not include other types of leave, such as sick days, USERRA, and FMLA. These policies are typically drafted separately.
3) Social media
Social media policies are relatively new but significant additions to employee office manuals. Most importantly, these policies should let employees know that posting or discussing information about patients, whether on their personal pages or on your practice page, is a HIPAA violation. Since social media knows no boundaries, your policies should also address what is appropriate both during and outside of work hours, including posting about coworkers, and posting any of the practice’s proprietary information.
You should also have more comprehensive policies in place tackling not only social media use, but also office Internet use in general.
4) HIPAA and OSHA compliance
Staff should be aware that compliance with HIPAA and OSHA is not optional — it is the law. HIPAA and OSHA compliance policies should outline the components of these regulations that apply to your practice, as well as possible sanctions and penalties if they are not followed. It should also emphasize the importance of complying with these laws since violations have potentially harmful consequences for both patients and staff. Policies highlighting training and CE opportunities for both HIPAA and OSHA — whether they occur annually, when new staff is hired, or as technology is upgraded — should be included in your employee office manual.
5) Staff evaluation
In order to grow and thrive in their respective roles, your staff needs to know how they measure up. One way to do this is to develop a staff evaluation policy. A staff evaluation policy should include when and how often the evaluations take place, as well as a set of benchmarks or goals on which staff performance will be based. Decide and document whether you will tie performance-based raises or bonuses to the successful achievement of these goals.
Of course, benchmarks and goals will differ from person to person. A dental hygienist, for example, will not be evaluated in the same way as an office manager, so you should personalize how you measure each person’s accomplishments. A successful staff evaluation policy will leave each employee confident about the standards to which he or she is held.
Once you have documented your policies, you may want to do an annual review to revise policies that need fine-tuning, delete outdated policies, and add ones as new issues arise. It is also advisable to have them reviewed annually by legal counsel familiar with the laws of your jurisdiction. Finally, it is a good idea to have the manual printed on sturdy paper, bound, and distributed to staff, in addition to keeping an electronic version in an easily accessible place such as a shared drive, so that staff has this vital resource at their fingertips.
Kathryn Pulkrabek is the manager/editor of the ADA’s Professional Resources products. Her recent projects include The ADA Practical Guide to Creating an Employee Office Manual, a 204-page book of customizable office policies. It covers the topics mentioned here along with many others, and is available at www.adacatalog.org. Contact Kathryn at PulkrabekK@ada.org.
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