Time to Revisit Employment Practices in Your Home Health Care Organization

Headline news over the last few months put the spotlight on workplace issues across all industry sectors, serving as a wake-up call for many employers to revisit their company culture and policies regarding harassment, discrimination, improper termination, and other employment practices. Home health care providers and hospice organizations should be doing the same, ensuring their employees – from supervisors to medical professionals and paraprofessionals – understand the company’s policies, its zero tolerance for certain behavior, and available avenues for reporting incidents along with disciplinary actions related to such behavior. You can begin with the company’ employee handbook, which should be reviewed and updated to ensure that it accurately reflects your policies and current local, state and federal regulations.

An employee handbook outlines your company’s policies on everything from workplace dress to nondiscriminatory practices. If any disputes arise between an employee and your company, the manual can provide evidence that important messaging was communicated to the employee in full. Be sure to check over employee handbook provisions for disability, equal employment opportunities and family, medical and sick leave, as these regulations change frequently. Also, make sure that company practices around recruiting, hiring, training and promoting employees are updated.

In addition, it’s critical that all employees – from new hires to current workers – have a clear understanding of expected conduct – including what is expected, and what will not be tolerated. This is where you will address everything from dress code and the use of social media to heavier topics such as workplace bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination, violence and substance abuse at work. Key issues should be addressed as separate company policies. For example, a stand-alone harassment and discrimination prevention policy should be included in the employee handbook rather than addressing these issues within the text of a code of general conduct policy. Ensure there are no conflicting or confusing policies or procedures.

Provide consistent harassment and discrimination prevention training for all employees. Nothing communicates and affirms a company’s no-tolerance policy for discrimination or sexual harassment more than effective training sessions led by credible and knowledgeable professionals. In addition, ensure that management training on handling personnel and workplace wrongdoing is up to par. A supervisor’s actions or failure to act can make your home health care organization vulnerable to liability.

Safety is also an important topic to be included in an employee handbook. Safety is one of the most important topics to address in your employee handbook. Mention any equipment (goggles, gloves or masks) or training required to ensure the safety of your staff when working in a home health care environment, as well as processes to follow in the event of a workplace injury or other emergency.

Be sure to also review your Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) as part of your overall risk management strategy. If you currently don’t carry EPLI, speak with your insurance agent about this must-have coverage. EPLI is designed to step in and cover employers against claims made by employees alleging discrimination (based on sex, race, age or disability, for example), wrongful termination, harassment and other employment-related issues, such as failure to promote and wrongful firing. EPLI policies reimburse your organization for the costs of defending against lawsuits and for settlements and judgments. The company, officers and directors, employees and management personnel are covered under most policies.

Manchester Specialty specializes in insuring the home health care and hospice industry, and offers EPLI solutions to help protect organizations in the event of employment-related allegations. For more information about this coverage and other industry-specific insurance products, you or your local insurance agent can contact us today toll free at 1-855-972-9399.