Safety needs involve satisfying OSHA guidelines but are much more expansive. This need includes health insurance, job security and childcare.
Providing health insurance to team members may be an expense the employer may feel the practice cannot afford. However, considering it can cost a practice in excess of $20,000 to train a new team member (due to onboarding/training costs and loss of productivity), the annual premium for health insurance is well worth the benefit of retaining a motivated and productive team member.11 Furthermore, health insurance costs can be controlled by setting minimum hours for team members to qualify for health benefits and requiring team members to share in premium costs.
Team member allegiance to the practice increases in proportion to job security. Years ago, staying with one company for one’s whole career was customary. Today, with changing economies, that’s no longer true. Companies dismiss employees in an economic downturn without regard to experience or age, and employees may also view their career commitments as more as transitory, enjoying the freedom of new opportunities, locations and experiences. But the bottom line is the bottom line. Employees who believe that they can be relieved of their position at a moment’s notice do not develop abiding allegiance to the company.
In a dental practice, team members should be cross-trained so they can be more productive by performing alternative tasks during economic slowdown. Should inclement weather result in patient cancellations, the dental assistant can review patient records and contact patients who have not completed treatment or need to schedule a recall appointment, rather than be asked to go home with loss of pay. Team members can help market the practice during a lull in production. Providing health information at a shopping mall, a health fair or in local schools can be an ethical and positive means of marketing for the dental practice.
Childcare and maternity leave needs must be addressed. Childcare may or may not be provided on a continual basis. However, facilities should be available when a team member is faced with a sick child or unexpected school closing. If possible, set aside a spare room in the office for team member children that need emergency day care. If that is not possible, arrangements can be made with a local day care center for such emergency situations. Alternatively, a team member who is not scheduled to work can be paid to remain at home and babysit other team member children. The cost involved can be less than the expense of losing the services of a valuable team member for the day.
Job security also includes health, medical and maternity leave. In actuality, all larger businesses must abide by the Family and Medical Leave Act that was added to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on October 31, 1978 and updated in 1993. It applies to businesses with 50 or more employees. The Act requires covered employers must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees for the following reasons: birth and care of the employee’s newborn child, care for a child after adoption or foster care placement, care for the employee’s spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition that affects the employee’s ability to work. Women affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment related purposes, including receipt of benefits, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability to work. The benefits include temporary disability benefits, accrual and crediting of seniority, pay increases and vacation calculation. Employers must hold the pregnant employee’s job open during their maternity leave for the same amount of time that jobs are held open for employees on disability leave. Employer provided health insurance must cover expenses for pregnancy related conditions.
Existing federal legislation notwithstanding, the United States lags way behind other developed nations in that NO federal legislation requires employers to offer paid maternity leave. Paid maternity leave now only includes accrued vacation time and paid sick leave/wellness days, if available. While clearly an increased expense to the owner-dentist, additional paid maternity leave would significantly and uniquely: 1) help to meet biological/physiological and safety seeds of individual team members and their families; 2) facilitate important bonding between the parent-team member and his/her infant child, thereby meeting relationship needs; and 3) build team member loyalty. Similarly, providing health insurance offers similar pluses in meeting biological/physiological and safety/security needs. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees, also prohibits discrimination against pregnant women.12
Many states have enacted their own pregnancy discrimination laws and have extended these laws with fewer than 15 employees. Employers should check with their individual state’s laws on disability and pregnancy leave.