Employment and HR Lawyer, Sarah Buxton, lays out the correct process you need to follow when it comes to changing your teams contracted hours…
There may come a time in your practice where, for one reason or another, you have to tweak your staff members’ contracted hours. It could be that you have seen an increased patient demand and need certain staff to work at different times, or your business model and hours need to be altered to fit in with your new way of working.
If you do find yourself in this situation, there is a correct and fair process that you will need to follow with your employees and this is what it involves…
Open the conversation
If you are in a position where you have, for example, overhauled your business model and you are going to have to change staff’s contracted hours, then the first thing you need to do is have an open conversation with them to explain the situation.
So, hold a meeting with the staff whose hours are going to be impacted and explain why you are having to make the changes and how they are going to positively impact on the practice and the staff. It might be the change in business model allows you to provide a more efficient service for patients and if that is the case, really emphasise that to your team.
What you will find is that around 80 per cent of your team will understand your reasoning for wanting to make the changes, they will be flexible and will be more than happy for their hours to alter.
However, it is likely that around 20 per cent of your team might not agree with the changes. There are solutions to this problem, which I will come on to, but you’ve covered yourself on the first point by having an open conversation with them and being transparent about the situation and that is key.
So, now you are in a position where the large majority of your team are on board and happy to have their contracts changed to incorporate their new hours – however, you have the other 20 per cent of your work force who are against the changes.
In this situation, the first thing you can do is dangle a carrot and offer them an incentive if they agree to take on the new hours, in line with the rest of your workforce. For example, you might offer them a one-off bonus for changing their mind and agreeing to make the changes, or you might offer them a day or two of extra annual leave.
That is one option that you could use and what practices tend to find is that when they offer that little incentive, then the majority of the time the rest of the practice will come on board with the changes.
Forcing a change
If you’ve gone down the other avenues and you’ve still got a staff member who is not willing to accept changes to their contracted hours, then the next thing you can try and do is to force the change through.
So, let’s say you’ve got a staff member who likes their hours and has refused to be flexible and change. What I would advise you to do is to sit down with them again and explain very clearly that you are not trying to make things difficult for them, however, you’re making the change for the future of the business
Really try to emphasise these points and explain that it isn’t anything against them as an employee – but it is something you need to do. Sometimes this may work and after this conversation the member of staff will re-think their previous position and accept the changes.
However, if all the above fail, then you have one other option and that is to start a formal consultation with the team member. I would strongly advise at this point you take advice to ensure you undertake a fair process and do not fall foul of the discrimination legislation. I would also strongly advise is to really exhaust other avenues before you press ahead with this because, as we all know, it is very, very difficult to replace staff in the dental profession at the moment.
If you’re in a position where you are needing to change contracted hours and you want more information, then you can contact Sarah by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org