An employee manual memorializes a veterinary practice’s policies and procedures with regard to employment, and it communicates expectations to employees. Creating a manual forces a practice owner to think through the answers to questions that often arise while employing people, and it ensures that team members are treated equally. It can be difficult several years later to remember how many days off you gave your receptionist when her grandmother died, but you can be sure that someone on the team will remember, especially if another staff member is not given the same consideration. Being consistent is essential, and writing your policies down in an employee handbook helps everyone know what to expect.
Sections of an employee handbook generally include the following:
1. INTRODUCTION & WELCOME
This section introduces the history of the practice. It then describes the organization’s mission, vision and values. It welcomes new employees and states the purpose of the handbook, which is to inform new employees of policies and procedures and to establish expectations. In some states, you might want to provide a statement that employment at your company is at will, with an employment relationship that can be terminated at any time, with or without reason or notice by either the employer or the employee.
2. WORKPLACE COMMITMENTS
This section includes statements about equal employment opportunities. It outlines the practice’s policy prohibiting unlawful discrimination and harassment based on race, color, religion, creed, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, veteran status or any other status protected by applicable federal, state and local law. This policy should also apply to all terms, conditions and privileges of employment, including recruitment, hiring, placement, compensation, promotion, discipline and termination.
3. COMPANY POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
Policies for use of company property, privacy rules, drug and alcohol use, and social media, among other considerations, are stated in this section. This section also includes clear statements about disciplinary action that may result if any part of these policies is violated. Things employees can and cannot do with company property such as equipment, vehicles, telephones, computers and software are outlined explicitly. Other commitments and statements in this section could include a drug/alcohol-free environment policy and an open-door policy where employees are free to bring forward any concerns or problems. Other policies in this section could cover confidentiality, dress code, conflict of interest, intellectual property ownership, outside employment, training, education reimbursement or expense reporting.
4. EMPLOYMENT CLASSIFICATION
A section on employment classification and overtime rules is necessary because the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides narrow rules for which employees qualify for overtime-exempt status. This section states that the practice assigns positions, determines wages and compensates employees for overtime in accordance with state and local laws and the FLSA. The details, requirements, and the benefits afforded for each classification of part-time, full-time, or temporary status employees are clearly outlined here.
5. ATTENDANCE POLICIES
This section includes clear details on the practice’s work hours and schedule, as well as expectations and requirements for attendance. It outlines any policies and information about locations, punctuality and absenteeism.
6. LEAVE POLICIES
In this section, policies about time away from work for employees (including eligibility details), especially those required by law, are described. Policies on family medical leave, jury duty, military leave, and time off for court cases and voting should all be included and comply with federal, state, and local laws. In addition, policies for vacation, holiday, bereavement and sick leave are explained in this section.
7. WORK PERFORMANCE
How employee performance will be assessed and what is expected of employees for satisfactory job duties are explained in this section. A simple timeline of when employees may expect a review is helpful. Expectations about mutual respect, common courtesy, and consequences for insubordination may be included. If team norms for interpersonal behavior have been established, they should be listed here.
8. DISCIPLINE POLICY
This section of the employee manual clearly communicates expectations and penalties, and it should spell out a progression of actions that owners or managers may take, including speaking to employees about minor issues, written warnings for continued problems, and termination.
9. EMPLOYEE HEALTH AND SAFETY
Information regarding workplace safety, security and emergency procedures in keeping with OSHA compliance are stated here. Many practices have separate safety and health handbooks to describe the safety and health programs that must be implemented to comply with various Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards and regulations.
10. EMPLOYEE BENEFITS
Basic descriptions of employee benefits offered by the business, the eligibility requirements, and contact information are listed in this section, including health insurance, company retirement plans, workers’ compensation and disability coverage. Availability of the detailed, formal plan documents is generally referenced. Generally, a disclaimer is included that in the event of any inconsistencies between your handbook or any other oral or written description of benefits and a formal plan document, the formal plan document will be official.
11. TERMINATION POLICIES
In this section, acknowledgment is made that personal situations may arise that require a voluntary termination of employment. It states expectations of advance notice in writing and clarifies that this request does not alter an employee’s at-will relationship with the company. Termination details are included in this section.
12. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF RECEIPT
The employee manual concludes with a signed acknowledgment of receipt, stating that the employee has received, read and understood the handbook, which prevents claims of being unaware of rules and expectations.
If you are concerned with any part of your employee manual, research the law, contact the proper state or federal agency and/or consult an attorney. For more information, contact an employment attorney licensed to practice in your area.
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