A General Policy Manual – regardless of the size of your office - is vital. The following are some basic guidelines that you should consider when assembling your manual:
1. Make a distinction in your dental offices manual between policies that apply to everyone in the company (general office hours, payroll, vacation, etc.) and procedures that relate specifically to how people do their individual jobs. Keep these manuals separate.
2. Keep the wording simple. Use plain English and try to avoid overly formal wording and phrasing. Policies need to be clear and concise.
3. Pay attention to legalities. Know that anything you put in writing about your company’s policies or procedures automatically becomes a legal document and someone might use it against you in a wrongful dismissal suit.
There have been many cases over the past years where employees have won these kinds of suits because they proved in court that they were following policies that were published in the company manual, or that the company itself didn’t follow these policies. Play things safe. Have your attorney or a HR professional review your manual.
4. Make sure the layout of your handbook is attractive and easy to use. The purpose of the handbook is to convey policies that staff can understand and easily follow. Here are some things to keep in mind:
a) Use a font that is easy to read. Decide on a basic format for each page and stay with that throughout the manual.
b) Don’t make your font too small. Anything below 10 points is really difficult to read.
c) Add some simple graphics to provide interest and highlight key points. There is a variety of appropriate and inexpensive clip art that is readily available on-line.
5. What should you include? The following is a list of many of the most common categories generally included in a company policy manual.
• Welcome statement by the practice owner
• Company overview
• Equal Employment Opportunity statement – including sexual and other forms of harassment
• Company mission statement
• Employment at-will (if applicable)
• Essential company rules (work hours, dress code, sick days, vacation, smoking policies, etc.)
• Disciplinary procedures
• Performance appraisal procedures
• Health, safety and security rules and procedures
• Benefit programs
Your manual should also include a disclaimer that states that the manual is a source of information and is not a binding employment contract.
6. Document the distribution of the manual. Each employee should sign a document that acknowledges that the employee has received, read and understood the contents of the handbook. This signed form should be kept in the personnel file.
7. Anytime the General Policy Manual is updated with new policies, deletions or revisions, have all employees attest to receiving and reading the new edition.