Medical practices, just like any other businesses, should have policies in place that cover everything that relates to staff and their employment. Our last post looked at policies relating to patients; here we cover the basics of policies relating to practice employees.

All permanent staff should have contracts in line with current labour legislation and any changes in existing contracts should be negotiated and agreed to before being implemented, as part of good practice management.

Locums
The definition of a locum is an individual that works in place of another permanent member of the practice to help out in their absence. There is no such thing as a permanent or long-term locum. Proposed amendments to current labour legislation set the maximum duration of fixed-term contracts to six-months and this would include locum contracts. After this period an employee would be considered permanent, so practices should bear this in mind when drawing up employment contracts.

Employment policies
These should cover the basic guidelines that are applicable to most businesses employing staff, including the following:

  • Pay and bonuses: detail of pay levels and how they are adjusted annually, whether bonuses are performance related or annual etc.
  • Performance: how is performance evaluated and how often.
  • Discipline: guidelines for staff behaviour and guidelines for verbal and written warnings, as well as disciplinary hearings, should they be necessary.
  • Leave: can leave be carried over to the following year, are there days when leave must be taken, provisions for sick leave and maternity leave. These must all be in line with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
  • Use of practice property: the practice policy on use of phones, computers and other practice property for personal use.
  • Grievance: policy on how staff can bring concerns and complaints to be heard and resolved.
  • Confidentiality: should refer to the National Health Act, to ethical rules and privacy.

Having firm policies and guidelines in place, as well as legal and well structured contracts, (and of course an efficient and easy-to-use practice management application!) helps the practice run more smoothly and effectively, making it a more harmonious environment for staff, practitioners and patients alike and making your practice management that much simpler.