Three considerations for keeping compliance when it comes to time
When time turns on you
Dentists love tech. In fact, because dentistry is a tech-centric industry, dentists tend to be early adopters of new technology.
Advancements in hardware and software have led to all sorts of innovations: same-day crowns, intraoral cameras, patient information management and recall systems, and digital X-rays are just a few examples where hardware, software or a combination of the two have made coming to your office easier on you, your team and your patients. There’s even a new system that uses virtual reality as a viable method for reducing pain and anxiety during treatment.
When it comes to HR, it takes a combination of technology and human expertise to create the best outcomes.
As it turns out, some of the software that dentists use actually fails to save them time, or fails to prevent HR-related disasters that, with the right systems and support in place, could be easily avoided.
Even the most seemingly innocuous piece of technology in your office—your digital time clock—can end up costing, rather than saving, you time. It could even land your practice in hot water with the U.S. Department of Labor and state and local enforcement entities if used incorrectly, or without a complete understanding of the laws governing the use of that software. On the next few pages, I’ll discuss three important things to keep in mind when dealing with timekeeping in a dental practice.
1. Setup often requires specialized knowledge of employment laws.
When adding your employees’ information into a digital timekeeping system, there are typically a number of items that must be manually entered for each individual on your roster. Some of that information is pretty basic: name, job title, email address, etc. Accurately updating certain other pieces of information, however, requires some specific knowledge of employment laws.
Some systems ask employers to select whether an employee is paid hourly or on salary, and then to select whether that employee should be paid overtime. While that might not seem like a problem at first glance, the issue is that this series of questions leans on whether you have a complete understanding of what the phrase “classified as exempt from the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)” actually means.
A dentist or office manager could easily and mistakenly “decide” that their salaried employees are not eligible for overtime. This could be a huge mistake that could ultimately compound into thousands of dollars in unpaid overtime.
2. Without customization, your time clock won’t account for everything.
While we can point to some pretty crazy HR requirements within Alaska’s and California’s overtime requirements, there are literally hundreds of employment laws specific to states, cities and counties across the United States that will affect the use of your office’s timekeeping and paid-time-off (PTO) tracking systems.
These regulations govern things like leave, PTO (including sick leave), overtime payments, tracking hours worked, and payment for work-related travel and on-call time. Such guidelines can complicate your timekeeping software’s ability to ensure that you are in compliance.
Without help from an HR expert during the setup of your timekeeping system, it’s a fairly safe bet that your system will fail to account for one or more of those requirements and will therefore manage at least some portion of your practice’s employee timekeeping incorrectly.
In addition to making sure that your practice stays compliant with employment laws at all levels, some basic customization can also help to save you time and stress. The most robust timekeeping systems allow employees to automatically accrue time?off as they go, based on the requirements set forth by federal and local laws as well as their employer’s office policies.
3. Simple timekeeping mistakes could cause you to commit wage and hour violations.
Most timekeeping systems allow for business owners to make minor customizations to the software themselves, which could lead to legal trouble if done incorrectly.
Some digital time clocks allow you to set your own overtime rate, which may sound great when pitched by a salesperson as an advanced feature. But, while it is legal to set a custom overtime rate that is greater than the federally mandated 1.5 times an employee’s regular rate of pay, it is not legal to set a rate that is lower than that figure. Unfortunately, lots of legacy timekeeping systems that have not been updated to prevent this from occurring still prompt you to change the rate.
Many dentists also get excited about systems that allow them to automatically deduct payment for mandated breaks or meal periods, that prevent employees from clocking in before the official start of a workday, or prevent employees from working overtime. Employing those features could lead to accidental violations of the law without expert guidance or a full understanding of the situation.
It does not matter what your clock says: If an employee can show he or she was working, then your preventive measures are not legal. Preventing employees from clocking in is legal only so long as they are also prevented from actually performing their job duties—and overtime must be paid when non-exempt employees work more than the daily or weekly totals defined by law.
Time as a tool
Your digital time clock should help you and your office manager save time on administrative tasks. Nowhere is this truer than when talking about the time it takes to track sick time, vacation and PTO.
Digital time clocks can make life easier for you and your office managers, but only if they can automatically track important metrics and report them to your employees and your payroll provider. Used correctly, your time clock should be able to help you track time off, track all schedule change requests, and provide a streamlined self-service model for employees.
Like any other tool, if properly designed and set up specifically for your practice, digital time clocks can actually save you hundreds of hours over the life of your business. But they can also cause serious headaches for your practice if they are not kept up to date. A hammer by itself is innocuous, but a hammer swung at anything other than a nail can be ... well, you get the idea.
For the reasons outlined earlier, it’s recommended that you work with an HR professional when setting up your digital time clock. That way you can ensure that your time clock is being used the right way to keep you compliant, to limit your liability, and to help your office run more efficiently. Absent of that expertise, simple timekeeping systems are no better than paper. Mistakes could easily lead to costly oversights that compound for your practice the longer they go unnoticed.