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3 Situations When a Resignation Puts Your Dental Practice at Risk

UPDATED 08/10/2023

Employees quit, it happens — especially in the dental industry.

In many cases, team members leave for their own personal reasons. However, a high turnover rate may indicate a greater issue and select situations could threaten your practice.

The Cost of Employee Turnover Beyond Dollar Signs

The stress of staff turnover is seen across dental, optometry, veterinary, and other healthcare practices. After all, creating and molding a successful, compatible team can take years to accomplish. You need to find the right blend of skill and personalities, but to get to that point, you’ll likely need to let some individuals go. 

There is plenty of research showcasing the financial impact of employee turnover, particularly within the healthcare industry. Involuntary terminations are nearly always related to interpersonal behaviors or personality traits, which is why you need to handle each situation with care, remaining mindful of each specific employee and circumstance. 

With turnover rates being up to 30 percent worse than other industries, there is no denying that there's a significant monetary impact. Studies on the financial cost of employee turnover range — and some situations are much more costly than others.

Select studies, such as those conducted by the SHRM, state that every time a business, in this case, a practice, replaces an employee, it costs an average of six to nine months' salary. For example, if a dental hygienist is making $55,000 per year, that's anywhere from $27,500 to $41,250. While studying veterinarians, it’s been reported that the cost to replace an employee is between 50 to 75 percent of their annual salary, and the more specialized an employee’s training, the higher this rate will be.

Although the financial implications are most certainly worth noting, the real cost of losing an employee can be much greater, particularly when an employee resigns due to a negative experience they had. If not handled properly, you could place your reputation and entire practice at risk.

Remain Mindful of These Three Situations

In 2000, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) began recording the resignation rate. This figure represents the number of employee resignations year-over-year and since 2010, total resignations have increased for nine consecutive years. While employees leave for a wide range of reasons, including money, career development, and greater work-life-balance, the following three scenarios need to be on your radar — both in terms of proactive and reactive strategies.

1. An employee resigns but the dental practice cuts them off sooner

Whether you're running a dental practice or a physiotherapy office, the same rules apply when it comes to employee resignation. If one of your team members comes to you to provide their two-week notice, you cannot make that their last day. In doing so, the employee's resignation immediately turns into a termination, making the overall situation riskier in terms of potential legal backlash.

By providing their notice, the employee expects to work for the remainder of that allotted period. That is why you have one of two options:

 1. Allow the employee to continue to work for the remainder of the two weeks, as stipulated in your employee handbook and/or contract.

 2. If you would prefer that the employee no longer returns to the office, you can pay the employee out for the remainder of the two weeks.

Regardless of the situation, it's important to remain calm and professional. If the resigning employee will open up to you about why they wish to leave, great. Feedback is important. Moving forward, encourage your team to openly discuss their interests and needs so that this scenario isn't repeated.

If your practice only has a handful of employees, you'll want to take swift action to hire a replacement. In the meantime, turn the resignation into a positive learning experience for your other team members. With one employee gone, there may be select responsibilities available that other willing team members are willing to pick up to expand their knowledge and experience.


2. Constructive discharge

If a team member decides to quit because they feel as though they have no other choice, you may find yourself in hot water, dealing with a constructive discharge claim.

As reported by SHRM, in order for an employee to win such a claim, they must show that the employer acted in a way that made an employee feel as though they would be terminated AND that the associated working conditions had become intolerable.

For example, a doctor may discriminate against one hygienist, and instead of firing them, they try to get them to quit on their own. To do so, they may demote them or reduce their pay. Since the employer's actions lead to a somewhat forced resignation, the courts may consider the resignation non-voluntary and instead, classify this scenario as a termination.

Related: What's the Difference Between Termination and Resignation?


3. Harassment and/or hostile work environment

The stats available regarding workplace harassment are shocking, impacting employees in both large and small offices.

Between 2010 and 2017 alone, employers paid out a whopping $1 billion to settle harassment-related claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

There are two ways this scenario can go. The first is that an employee does not say anything or complain about harassment until they give their notice. The second scenario results when an employee does say something, yet no action is taken — or they feel as though the right actions were not taken. Neither is a winning situation.

Based on the first scenario, an employee may give their notice and then say things that spark red flags, such as, "Too bad I have to quit. I love our clients but I can no longer cope with the harassment I've experienced for the past two months." If you hear something along these lines, you may think it's too late, but it's not.

Since your practice does not likely have a dedicated HR team, it is important that you communicate with the employee immediately, expressing your concerns. Whenever possible, get things in writing and document your efforts. You'll want to show that you took their claim seriously, conducted an appropriate investigation, and took appropriate disciplinary action.

In comparison, if an employee feels like you took insufficient steps after they first complained of harassment, it's imperative that you handle the situation in a manner that protects both you and your practice. To do so, you'll want to document all allegations, focusing on the credibility of the employee in question. As you communicate with the employee regarding their experiences, document their input — especially if they acknowledge that your efforts were adequate. Then, follow up. The more thorough you are during this process, the better.

This is the perfect time to contact an HR advisor. Whether you have technical questions or would like to discuss a complex employee issue, this type of advisory support is included with HR for Health. Learn more about all of the software features here

Regardless of the current situation you find yourself in, we're here to help!

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