An employee is leaving, whether it's your idea or theirs. Now what?

It is never an easy decision when you have to let an employee go, nor is it easy when an employee gives you their notice.  In either case, there are some things as an employer that you MUST do.

Let's first talk 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. 

Are you going to begin the interview process prior to letting the employee go, or are you going to let them go and then "wing it" until you get the right person in place.  When you terminate someone's employment, you should do it in person (it is NOT ok to 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 their 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, please refer to your state's labor laws or give us a call.  If the employee wishes for you to provide references for them to future employers they should sign a form that is kept in their employee file.  Remember, once an employee leaves your practice, no matter what the reason is, you must keep their employee file for 30 years! The employee should be allowed to collect their personal belongings as long as there is someone there 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.

You should have a meeting with the team as soon as possible as they need to be informed regarding what has happened and how you would like any questions from patients regarding the employee handled.  Patients develop relationships with your team over the years 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 they no longer want to work for you, you are in a slightly different situation.  As a professional courtesy, the employee should give you a minimum of 2 weeks' notice so you have time to hire and possibly train their replacement; however you may opt to have the employee leave immediately if you feel that their 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 very 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 (Dentrix, EagleSoft, etc.), alarm codes, etc.  If they having signing ability on checks or credit cards you need the bank and/or credit card company should be notified 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". The hiring and firing process is a necessary part of any business. 

Make sure that you protect yourself during the process by checking references, doing background checks and behavior based surveys!

If you have any questions, contact Amy or Michelle at 508-697-7318 or