I want something in writing with my employees. Do I need a handbook or contracts? Whats the difference?
Dr. O, I'm glad you are interested in papering up. Doing so is the only way to start your paper trail to protect against major employment issues.
Both an employee handbook and employment agreements are acceptable and recommended tools to implement, but for very different reasons and oftentimes different types of employees.
A standard employee handbook will include the policies and procedures of the practice that are true across the board for all employees bound by the handbook - for instance, vacation days (can vary by years of service or employee classification - i.e., admin v. professional), rules of conduct at the practice (smoking policy, phone ettiquite, dress code, late policy).
By contract, an employment agreement is a document between the practice and a specific employee that contains, for the most part, details particular to that individual - for instance, compensation, licensure status, termination provisions and notice requirements, non-compete language, etc.
My general rule of thumb - unless you have a high level office manager, most admin will be covered by a thorough employee handbook and a simple 1 page offer letter detailing their compensation and job description. Any professional staff should be issued a contract to nail down specific terms, including how much notice you expect from that person should they wish to terminate. Without a notice provision, your employees are "at will" (in NY) and may leave with no notice - which may leave you in a real lurch.
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If you have no paper on file for your employees - and no employee files, watch out! You are putting yourself at real risk for a walk out and potential trouble by way of false claims against you, and you'll have no back up to defend yourself because you failed to properly paper. I'm here to help if requested.