HR Base Camp Roundup – October 26th, 2022

In this week’s edition of the HR Base Camp roundup, we’re answering questions about both the beginning and the end of employment relationships. Should you write up employee contracts for your new employees? How about firing a soon-to-be-ex employee over the phone? Read on for answers!

Here are the HR Q&As from our HR Base Camp Facebook Group and HR Solution Center:

 

When opening your first practice, should you write up employee contracts for each new employee you hire?

I’m about to open my first practice and I’m getting all the new hire paperwork together. Should I have employee contracts for each position?

We love this question because it gives us a chance to be HR nerds. The need for contracts for your entire staff is a common misconception. It sounds like it would be the logical thing to do, right? It makes sense to provide new employees with a document that explains their position, their pay, their benefits, etc.

But for the majority of employees (especially those classified as non-exempt), all of this can (and should) be laid out in a formal offer letter. Offer letters are meant to communicate the initial terms and expectations for an employee’s positions. Contracts, on the other hand, are binding agreements that can alter the at-will relationship with the employee. At-will employment means that either the employee or employer can terminate the working relationship at any time, with or without notice. To put a contract/employment agreement in place might limit your ability to terminate immediately, if needed.

We often see contracts put in place with all the best intentions in the world, but end up backfiring on the employer when they find out they’ve restricted their own ability to change things that the business should clearly be maintaining control over. This includes things like adjusting the employee’s schedule based on business needs, and the ability to make changes to the health benefits you offer.

This isn’t to say contracts don’t have their place. There are some instances where a contract is necessary to establish details of the job beyond normal terms, such as having a non-compete or non-solicitation agreement when hiring an associate doctor.

 

When it’s time to let an employee go, can you fire them over the phone? SHOULD you?

I’ve reached the point where I unfortunately need to terminate one of my employees. Despite multiple corrective actions about routine mistakes they’re making and extensive training, there have been no improvements. They’re not scheduled for a few more days and I’m wondering if it would be easier to terminate them over the phone rather than have them drive into the office. Is there anything wrong with this?

We understand that a phone termination may feel easier than having an employee come into the office only to send them home right away. However, we always recommend doing it in person whenever possible as 1) it’s more respectful to the employee and 2) it gives you more control over the situation.

Terminating on a phone call leaves a lot of variables. You don’t know where the employee is going to be or what they’ll be  doing when you call. They may drag the conversation out or angrily hang up before you can finish. If the employee has a key to the office or equipment such as a laptop, terminating while they’re off the premises can make it harder to retrieve those items since you can’t ask for them right away.

That being said, if you decide you want to go this route, terminating over the phone is possible. As with all terminations, you should have a second person there as a witness and you must inform the employee of who else is present during the call. Ideally, the conversation should happen on speakerphone. Keep the conversation brief and to the point, but also allow the employee a chance to be heard. You should follow all regular termination procedures and send a termination letter and any other required documents to the employee.

Our termination checklist can help make sure you have everything in order.

 

At CEDR, we help employers protect their businesses and build stronger teams. Because stronger teams build better workplaces, and better workplaces make better lives.

Have an HR question you need to talk through with an HR expert? Reach out to the Solution Center for expert guidance, or get your questions answered in our private, professional Facebook Group, HR Base Camp.

Oct 26, 2022

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.
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