On average, there are approximately 6,000 employment tribunals being presented each month in this country. In dentistry, we see a large volume of cases in which practice principals have failed to issue their staff with proper employment contracts. Despite the fact that the provision of such contracts has been a statutory requirement since 1978, there are still many practices that fail to do so – why this should be the case is hard to determine, but it is indicative of an attitude that fails to recognise the importance of the staff.
Failing to provide employment contracts to any member of your team is not only a breach of statutory requirement, it can also leave practice owners vulnerable should there be dispute with a member of staff. For example, without an employment contract, there is no clear procedure for staff holidays, sick pay, overtime of discipline.
It is also quite likely that if a tribunal comes across a case where an employer has not provided a contract, they are likely to sympathise with the employee’s position. Thus, the lack of a contract can actually jeopardise the chances of successfully defending against such proceedings.
But by including a clause in an employment contract, that defines the procedures that will be followed in all aspects of work within your practice, you will be suitably protected.
To reinforce this, it is also prudent to supply a comprehensive staff handbook. This must be bespoke to your dental practice and will expand upon the terms detailed in the employment contract, focussing on specific circumstances that may be unique to you and your team. Of course, it must be regularly updated to reflect new legislation and practice changes, and it is absolutely vital to include a thorough introduction to the handbook in any staff inductions.
Ultimately there are two reasons to invest yourself in a comprehensive handbook like this. Firstly, you will be able to significantly reduce the chances of becoming embroiled in a dispute and being taken to a tribunal. The second is that your business will come across as professional, serious, fair and competent.
Of course, these precautions are not guaranteed to stop all staff misconduct, but they do provide an efficient safety-net to fall back on if matters turn nasty. What’s more, it will promote staff happiness, because they will feel protected and valued – and, of course, happy staff should equal happy patients.
John Grant of Goodman Grant Lawyers for Dentists - a NASDAL member
A NASDAL and ASPD MEMBER