There’s an old saying that goes “It’s better to retire too soon than too late.” Leaving your practice can take some adjustment.
Are you planning to scale back over a period of months?… Sell your practice? (not easy these days, especially if it’s paper-based), or outright discontinue your practice as of a certain date? If you’re a sole medical practitioner who is planning to shut down, you face the prospect of telling your staff that their employment will cease as of the date of your retirement. So when it finally comes time to throw off the bowlines and sail away, you’ll need to have a plan in place to let your staff know of your intentions.
When you’re ready to communicate your plans to your staff, try to anticipate their uncertainty – will everyone have to look for new jobs, or do you have colleagues who would be happy to hire your trained, tenured team?
Where possible, it shows consideration to give your employees notice of your planned retirement or closure at least 90 days in advance. This allows them to start thinking about employment elsewhere. Naturally, when you give notice a few months in advance, there is a slight risk that your staff may leave prior to the actual closure of your practice, leaving you without the assistance you require to continue practicing to the end. One way to prevent this is to offer a bonus for each week that they continue on with you until the date of your retirement so that they will be more likely to stay and help you move forward with your office closure. Alternatively, you can make your offer of a bonus contingent upon them remaining with your office until the retirement date, payable after fulfilling their last week of employment.
Don’t forget that you must abide by the Employment Standards Act for the minimum notice periods in your province or territory – you will either have to provide sufficient notice for your tenured staff, or payment in lieu of notice. Remember that the Employment Standards Act provides for the minimum notice period only. You may also wish to obtain legal advice. Check the resources below for guidelines on notice periods for terminations:
Alberta Employment Standards
British Columbia Employment Standards
Manitoba Employment Standards
New Brunswick Employment Standards
Newfoundland Labour Standards
Nova Scotia Employment Rights
Ontario Employment Standards
The Government of Prince Edward Island
Quebec Labour Standards
Saskatchewan Labour Standards
Retirement can’t come soon enough for some doctors, but it often comes at a cost to your staff members. While you adjust to retiring from a profession that has engaged you intellectually and emotionally for many years, focus on helping your staff transition to a new career without you. Remain upbeat about your plans so that your enthusiasm becomes “infectious.” (pun intended). Involve your staff in the process – encourage them to plan a party or special event that they will also enjoy attending. We’ve seen some of our physician clients decide to engage the community and patients in the plans. Remove or minimize uncertainty wherever possible. Write letters of reference, and offer to network with other physicians who may be looking for skilled staff. Be reasonable in allowing them some time to interview for other positions. Above all, be sure to let your staff know how important their loyalty, service and friendship has been to you over the years.
For additional guidance with respect to practice closure issues, please refer to the College of Physicians and Surgeons for your province as well as the Canadian Medical Protective Association. RSRS – Record Storage and Retrieval Services also offers a FAQ that will assist you with other medical practice closure issues such as Patient Notification, assistance with Equipment Sale/Donation, organizing and packing the patient records, and secure record scanning and storage. For assistance with closing your medical practice, contact RSRS at 1-888-563-3732.