Academy of Dental Management Consultants Corner: The 6 things you must do when an employee leaves your dental practice

December 18, 2013

It’s never an easy decision when you have to let a dental hygienist, dental assistant, or office manager go, nor is it easy when a team member gives you his or her notice. In either case, there are some things as an employer that you MUST do.

Let's talk first about your decision to terminate your working relationship with an employee. Before you inform the employee of your decision, you need to have a plan in place. 

When you terminate someone's employment, you should do it in person – do NOT send an e-mail or text message – and have someone with you as a witness. A termination letter should be provided to the employee along with his or her final paycheck. 

In Massachusetts, it is mandatory for you to provide the employee with their final paycheck at the time of termination. It is NOT OK for it to be direct deposited in the next payroll cycle. For other states, refer to your state's labor laws. If the employee asks you to provide references for him or her to future employers, he or she should sign a form that is kept in his or her employee file. Remember, once an employee leaves your practice, no matter the reason, you must keep that employee’s file for 30 years! Employees should be allowed to collect their personal belongings as long as there is someone with them to ensure that nothing is taken that doesn't belong to them, or that there is no damage or sabotage done to any equipment or patient information.

Have a meeting with the team as soon as possible to inform them what has happened and how you would like any questions from patients regarding the employee handled. Patients develop relationships with your team and if this person had been working for you for a long time, the patients will definitely have questions. 

Remember, you always want to be professional in front of your patients, regardless of the reason you let someone go! Now, if an employee decides that he or she no longer wants to work for you, you are in a slightly different situation. As a professional courtesy, the employee should give you a minimum of two weeks notice so you have time to hire and possibly train a replacement. However, you may opt to have the employee leave immediately if you feel staying is detrimental to your practice. 

In this day and age, some employees think it's OK to send an e-mail or text message letting you know that they have decided to leave your practice. This is not a professional way to handle the situation. If you do receive an e-mail or text message, you should request a written letter of resignation from the employee. In either case, you should immediately disable any access they have to your practice management software, alarm codes, etc. If they having signing ability on checks or credit cards, you need to notify the bank and/or credit card company immediately. 

Any passwords that they are aware of should be changed. Any office equipment (such as laptops or cell phones) and uniforms should be returned immediately. Even if they return the key to you, it is a good idea to have the locks changed because, believe it or not, there are people out there that will make copies of keys that say "Do Not Duplicate."

Finally, remember that the hiring and firing process is a necessary part of any business. However, you can minimize your chances of having to let someone go by making sure you protect yourself during the hiring process by checking references, doing background checks, and conducting behavior-based surveys.

Editor's Note: For more information on the Academy of Dental Management Consultants, please click here.