Dental offices are in the beginning phases of opening all across the U.S. Over the past few weeks, practice owners have had to deal with several challenges, such as obtaining necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) and establishing protocols to lessen risks to team members and patients.
These activities and others require leadership and collaboration with team members to achieve a comfort level for the resumption of dental treatment. If the team feels safe and trusts that the practice owner has made a commitment to follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health officials' recommendations, they will convey that confidence to the patients and your business will return to normal sooner.
This pandemic has provided several takeaways for dental practices, such as the need for having a written personnel manual. Part of the manual should address issues that will provide a basis on how to manage team members during reopening, such as vacation time, paid time off, leave of absence, and reinstatement after a leave. You should have your policies reviewed by an HR consultant or attorney to ensure they are up to date.
As a result of the recent COVID-19-initiated changes in state and federal employment regulations, any short-term amendments you make to your employment policies should be reviewed by an HR expert to ensure compliance. Some offices may decide to postpone or delay vacation requests, change hours of operation, or reduce employee hours. You may have team members with medical concerns due to an underlying medical condition, making them more vulnerable to COVID-19. There will be others who have childcare issues or feel they are making more money collecting unemployment and are reluctant to return to work.
With benchmark policies in place, an employer has a communication tool to approach these issues in a positive and constructive way and to make temporary accommodations, if needed, with expiration dates. It is important to let employees know that accommodations you make have a time limit, allowing you the flexibility to deny or extend an accommodation if needed.
Applying for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan with loan forgiveness can be a tremendous help to practice owners. A new law signed by President Donald Trump has expanded the draw down period from eight weeks to 24 weeks, or December 31, 2020, whichever comes first. It has also changed the ratio to 60% payroll and 40% nonpayroll, and it requires employees to be rehired by December 31, 2020, rather than June 30, 2020. Doctors should consult their certified public accountant (CPA) for advice as to specifics of the program and whether it would be beneficial to their business. The deadline for PPP loan application is June 30, 2020.
One benefit of the PPP loan is the ability to use monies to provide a loyalty or longevity bonus to offset the difference in unemployment benefits versus regular salary for those team members who feel it is better to stay on unemployment insurance because they make more money. However, they may not realize that if they are called back to work and refuse, they may lose unemployment benefits. Providing an incentive to return to work sooner rather than later can be a win-win for employer and employee.
Because a minimum of 60% of the loan needs to be allocated for payroll to be considered for loan forgiveness, it should be used for payroll expenses exclusively. If you can use 100% of the loan for payroll, the documentation for loan forgiveness will be easier. If less than 100% but at least 60% or more of the loan is used for payroll, then the difference should be used for big ticket items (such as rent or utilities) since it will be easy to document those expenditures when you apply for loan forgiveness.
Dentists are overwhelmed by trying to stay informed and deal with the changes and clarifications that seem to happen daily. Team members should be made aware that policies today may change tomorrow in response to new guidance from government agencies or business advisors. It is important as a business owner to be in contact with your CPA firm, HR consultant, or attorney, as they can advise you on details of and recent changes to the PPP loan program and how best to navigate these uncharted waters.
Paul Caselle, DDS -- a speaker, trainer, and business coach -- is a graduate of New York University College of Dentistry and the residency program in family dentistry at Forsythe Dental Institute. He brings more than 40 years of experience as a practicing dentist and has fellowship certification from the World Clinical Laser Institute, Invisalign, and Six Months Smiles.
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