Date: August 4, 2021Attorney: Peter H. Tanella

A handbook is an important resource that every veterinary practice should have, whether it has five, 25, or 50 employees. That’s because the key to healthy relationships between employers and employees is clear and consistent communication. Most workplace dissatisfaction, tension, and even litigation results from employees not knowing what’s expected of them, what they are entitled to, or the appearance of practices and polices being inconsistently applied. A handbook provides employees with the following:

  • An introduction to the practice’s culture, mission and values
  • An understanding of what’s expected of employees with respect to punctuality and attendance, job performance, attire, client and patient interactions, workplace communications and other items.
  • An explanation of employee benefits and how to make use of them.
  • An explanation of employee rights, and what steps an employee can take if they believe their rights may have been violated.
  • Information about how employees can communicate with management or ownership.

A handbook is also beneficial because it ensures compliance with federal, state, and local laws, and it can serve as a defense to claims in litigation. Drafting, distributing, and implementing a handbook is a great first step, but practice owners cannot put it on the shelf and forget about it. Ideally, a practice should review its handbook once a year for changes in employee benefits, new positions or updates to existing ones, and several other reasons, including:

  • Changes in federal, state, or local laws: Existing employment laws are continually being revised and new laws are being enacted all the time. A practice needs to ensure that is not inadvertently violating the law, which can lead to an agency investigation or lawsuit.
  • Changes in staffing levels: Many employment laws are based on the number of employees that work for an employer. As your practice grows there may be laws and regulations that you will now have to follow.
  • Adding new locations: If you open a location in a new city, county or state the handbook may need to be revised to address laws specific to that location.
  • Changes in practice or procedure: As a practice grows, new policies and procedures are often developed and implemented.