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Think It - Ink It - And Get It Signed
By Leslie Lyon
Tuesday, 4th March 2008
"The number one de-motivator in the world of work- is not knowing what is expected" -Your Staff Contracts should be in place before you begin recruiting. And if you are an existing business, it's never too late to introduce these important documents NOW.

The spa that has these documents in place will not only be providing themselves with greater protection, but will also be sending a professional, clear and concise message to (potential) staff that you mean business; you respect everyone who comes to work at your place of business; and you expect the same in return.

And you may be surprised at how favourably these documents are received. Your staff will view you as a professional who has guiding rules and fair expectations in place, a characteristic that is sought after by most employees. On the other hand, if an employee or candidate for employment refuses to sign these documents even when expectations are balanced and fair, this should be a red flag for you, perhaps a hint that this individual needs to be reconsidered.

Although these documents don't guarantee results, they will be effective deterrents with the ability to "ward-off" those individuals who may have ill intentions, or who simply are not a "fit" with the company.

This listing of Employee Agreements that I am supplying you with today, is by no means exhaustive. For example, you may also wish to implement contracts that support your Staff Retention Program; Staff Scheduling; Rules governing the acceptance of Gratuities in the workplace; Agreement relating to Background Checks, Drug Testing and Inspection of onsite Personal Belongings; and many more.

Important Note* Before releasing any documents for signing by yourself and your staff, consider involving legal counsel, and make sure you know the laws, restrictions and guidelines that govern these agreements in your Province, State or Country.

1. Offer of Employment -This Contract may also be known as an Employment Agreement or a Job Contract

This Contract will serve to re-iterate and solidify the Agreement you have negotiated with potential candidates during the interview and recruitment phases. It will confirm your intentions are in line with their expectations, both for now and into the future of the business relationship. It should include such information as: the Job Position, Description & Term; Probationary Guidelines; Termination Details; Hours of Employment; Vacation; Overtime; Sick Leave and so on. In this contract, as with all of them, you may wish to insert additional clauses such as:

  • The "Assignment Prohibited" clause which prevents Employees from holding another position outside of your employ;
  • The "Modification Agreement" which requires all changes to the contract must be made in writing and consent obtained by both parties;
  • A statement reading: "I have read carefully and understand all the provisions above and have voluntarily agreed to sign this document".
  • Particularly for the Offer of Employment Agreement, you may want to consider stating: "This offer is contingent upon satisfactory references and background checks". At the end of all Contracts you should date and obtain signatures for both the employee and employer.
2. Authorization to Release Information - During recruiting, you may want to ensure that the information you are receiving from candidates has not been "creatively enhanced" and that the person you are interviewing really is who they say they are! You may also want to be assured that the candidate has not been fired from a previous position, and many other hints as to how well they perform at work. Obtaining start and finish dates, as well as whether or not they graduated with a diploma is not difficult information to obtain, however some of the time, past and present employers and schools resist in providing this information, for fear of violating the laws governing disclosure of such information. In fact in many parts of the world, legally there is very little information that they can pass on.

An Authorization to Release Information may be an effective way to gain approval from the candidates for the release of this information, which can remove some of the risk from the business providing the reference data. An employer can have the candidate sign the release during the recruitment stage, which allows past and present employers and schools to release information such as performance evaluations, character information, dismissal details, etc.

3. Policies and Procedures Manual and Staff Handbook - May also be referred to as Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), or Operations Manual

The Policies and Procedures Manual is often a "Work in Progress" probably undergoing changes on a regular basis. You may have a few different versions of the Manual, as certain members of your staff will require different information than others. As well, portions of the manual will contain confidential information to be viewed by designated "Security" staff only.

It will be up to you as to whether you have one "Policies and Procedures Manual", or Standard Operating Procedures Manual (SOP), or if you break it down into two Manuals: "Staff Handbook", and "Policies and Procedures Manual". Whichever route you choose, the Manual will contain valuable information and even your Spa's Trade Secrets, so it must be treated with respect and care. Because of this, you will need to decide if the Manual can be taken off site by your employees, or not.

The Manual should be considered a signed contract, with signatures gathered from each person who is in possession of a copy. Whenever there are changes made to the Manual, copies of the new instructions should be inserted into each existing Manual, to replace the old information, and then signed off by each staff member and by management. These Manuals are useful for Training purposes, as well as in support of ongoing service consistency and professionalism for both staff and management.

4. Warning & Dismissal Document - You must always address problem behavior as soon as it occurs. While in the process of dealing with problem situations, be sure to document every move the staff member in question makes, and keep an ongoing, active file. Make sure you follow the guidelines initially laid down in your employment agreement. If you opt to let one situation slide through the cracks, you will be sending a message to staff that you don't follow through with your word and perhaps they will assume your exceptions have become your rules.

In addition to this, if something does end up going to court, and in the process the court observes that exceptions and inconsistencies have been the rule in the past, they may rule that since you have waived your rights in the past, the current case is deemed null and void. So, upholding your policies with consistency and regulated follow-through is imperative.

5. Growth & Goals Planning - Often one of our advantages during recruitment and in staff retention will be the future opportunities we sell to our (prospective) employees. Staff may consider these types of programs as being one of the most important components of their business careers. Everyone wants to know there will be ongoing attention and improvements provided to enhance their job satisfaction levels.

The lure of new and interesting job descriptions; personal initiatives; and stretch experiences is a strong one. Goals are something we all need to work towards. Having goals means growth. This type of program will not only attract good candidates, but will also play an important role in retaining your existing staff.

6. Job Descriptions - Having Job Descriptions in place is your first step towards consistency and professionalism in the work place, not to mention understanding and acceptance on the part of your staff. When staff are clear on what is expected of them, and they are evaluated in direct relation to that criteria, confusion diminishes and everyone is better equipped to get down to business.

If you are so inclined, it is always a welcomed privilege for staff to be able to participate in the development of their job description. While your role will be to ensure the mandatory requirements are contained in the contract, theirs will be to offer suggestions and even interesting additions to otherwise "flat" job descriptions. When staff is involved in this process, they tend to take more accountability and are much more likely to demonstrate responsibility and commitment to their positions.

7. Job Reviews and Staff Evaluations - Employees who know exactly what they have to do to reach peak performance will reach it more often than those who are unsure.

As the leader/manager, you will need to monitor and compare performance and potential of each of your employees, on a regular basis. It will allow you to reiterate employee expectations should there be misunderstandings or a dis-connect in perceived expectations and it's a great opportunity to discuss new goals and directions.

Reviews provide a consistent, professional approach to growing your relationship with your employees.

It has always been very common to have staff on a 3-month probationary period, but more and more we are hearing about 6 month probationary periods. It's usually not too difficult to behave yourself for 3 months, but 6 months may be another story! Once they have passed this initial assessment phase, you want to know and confirm with them: Are they a fit? Are they capable of doing their job efficiently and professionally? Are there strong signs of interest, improvement and forward motion?

It is recommended that you conduct reviews with your staff every 6 months, and an evaluation annually. The reviews are interim report cards used to keep everyone up to date and clear on observed progress, accomplishments or failures. The annual employee evaluation is the time in which full job outlines and behaviors are discussed and rated to determine future potential, including possible pay raises and promotions.

The annual evaluation is not a time for surprises. If there is a situation that needs to be addressed, it should be done immediately during a one on one meeting at the time it happens. It's not recommend that you "save up" your disappointments or rewards until the evaluation. Staff should have a pretty good idea at evaluation time, of what your opinion of them is.

8. Staff Compensation Package - Starting NOW, you must know how to "Showcase and Sell" both the monetary and non-monetary benefits of working at your Spa! Your staff compensation packages are presented to your new and existing staff to clarify what exactly their pay structure and ranges look like; the applicable job adjustment policies; staff benefits, bonuses and incentives attached to the job; whether there's paid sick days, and so on. Try to design the Staff Compensation Packages before you're ready to hire; keep them easy to understand and administer; be consistent, and put them in writing. Wherever possible, attach a projected bottom line pay out so that that staff can SEE the value and benefits of working at your spa.

And when compiling your compensation contract, don't underestimate the importance of the "non-monetary" benefits available at your spa. Include perceived values attached to your spa culture; family friendly policies; flexible scheduling; and growth and goals plans. Whatever it is the holds value, whether cash value or perceived, should be listed within this document.

9. Non-Compete Contracts- This may also be referred to as Non-Solicit or Geographical Contract.

In some areas, Non-Compete and Non-Solicit Contracts are different; however you may opt to develop an "all in one" contract. In this all in one agreement between the Employer and Employee, the Employee agrees not to compete with the Employer in a similar business after leaving their employ, as well as stating that the Employee is not allowed to solicit customers or staff from the previous Employer. The Agreement usually specifies the period of time in years that the arrangement will be in effect, as well as geographical limitations, or radius in which the former Employee cannot enter into a similar business as an Owner.

These contracts are created to deter employees from gathering knowledge and experience at your Spa to then use it to open their own business up the street. To ensure this contract is legal and binding, involve your lawyer and know your rights. This contract must be developed with reasonable restrictions, otherwise it will not hold up in a court of law. A reasonable time scope (the period of time in which they are prohibited to open) may be between 1-3 years.

A reasonable radius may be 5-10 kilometres, but know what's viable and acceptable in your area. You must consistently enforce the contract with any and all offenders; otherwise the courts may rule that you "waived" the contract by not upholding it.

10. Confidentiality Agreements -This contract may also be referred to as a Non-Disclosure, Privacy, or Trade Secrets Agreement.

These documents need to be in place to ensure Employees do not divulge your confidential information to anyone else, particularly your competitors, or use it for their own gain at some point in the future. It is usually only necessary to create a non-reciprocal or unilateral agreement, whereby only the employee is not allowed to disclose confidential information of the employers. This document should always be developed with the assistance of your lawyer.

Trade Secrets are anything that you consider to be your business advantages, such as your client base, financials, research & development, service procedures, ingredients, etc. If you consider them pertinent to maintaining your leading edge in the business, you must treat them as such in order for this contract to be useful in a court of law. This may mean restricting access and labeling specific information with signage like: "Not to be used outside of the Spa"; or "For your Eyes Only".

11. Independent Contractor Agreement -This is an agreement between a business and an independent contractor (not an employee) that provides the terms and conditions by which the contractor will provide services to the business.

It is best if you both sign the Agreement at the beginning of the work term so that it becomes a condition of the business arrangement. Many of the laws surrounding Independent Contractors differ dramatically, therefore the company and the independent contractor should become familiar with the laws of their specific province, state or country and the federal government before entering into this type of arrangement. In addition, before using the form you should always consult with your attorney to ensure that it addresses you specific situation.

Assumptions lie at the root of failure¦clarity is the key to success.

Spas2b is a full-service Spa Development, Consulting and Training company based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Spas2b draws on the extensive experience of its President, Leslie Lyon. Leslie has evolved with the Health and Beauty Industry for more than 30 years and has participated in many aspects of the Spa trade. An Aesthetician and Electrologist for 25 years, today Leslie enjoys her profession as an International Consultant, Educator, Key Note Speaker, Published Columnist and Freelance Writer.

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