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Holiday Pay Questions Answered for Dentists, Optometrists, and Veterinarians

Giselle Solorzano
Posted by Giselle Solorzano on November 12, 2019

Updated 12/10/2020 2:48pm

There are lots of reasons to take time out from your dental, optometry, or veterinary practice’s day-to-day routine to celebrate historical events and reflect on the people who moved the nation forward. The list of possible honorees is nearly endless.

While it’s not practical to close your practice for all of them, there are 10 federal holidays that get special recognition:

  • New Year's Day (January 1)
  • Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Third Monday in January)
  • Washington's Birthday (Third Monday in February)
  • Memorial Day (Last Monday in May)
  • Independence Day (July 4)
  • Labor Day (First Monday in September)
  • Columbus Day (Second Monday in October)
  • Veterans' Day (November 11)
  • Thanksgiving Day (Fourth Thursday in November)
  • Christmas Day (December 25)

On these days, most government offices are closed, and government employees receive holiday pay. Many businesses do the same, but does that mean you, as a healthcare practice owner, must? After all, emergencies don’t take holidays off, and you never know when your patients will need you. Make sure you have the facts about your legal obligations before finalizing your holiday pay policies. 

 

HR for Health’s complete guide to 2021 holidays is available here

 

Get the 2021 HR Calendar

 

There’s Good News and Bad News About Holiday Pay Laws 

When it comes to holiday pay laws, the good news is this: You are not required to close your dental, optometry, or veterinary practice. Perhaps more importantly, you aren’t required to pay your employees for the time off if you do close, and you don’t have to pay extra to those who work the holidays. That’s helpful for family practitioners and pediatricians, because patients appreciate the convenience of holiday appointments. These spots tend to fill up quickly.

The bad news is that while you don’t have to offer holiday pay benefits, you probably should. Giving paid time off for all 10 days is unnecessary, but you risk issues with employee engagement if you pass on holiday pay altogether. After all, your team members have families, too. Among other issues, working holidays can present challenges with childcare.

Offering at least a few paid holidays shows your team how much you value the hard work they put into caring for patients each day. You let your employees know that their needs are a top priority. Holiday pay ensures they can afford to take a bit of time off to rest, relax, and reconnect with friends and family. 

All of this contributes to strong levels of employee engagement, which links directly to improved productivity, reduced turnover, and a better patient experience. It’s also worth mentioning that holiday pay benefits give you a competitive edge in attracting and retaining top talent. That’s important given the difficulty of finding qualified candidates in today’s labor market for dental, optometric, and veterinarian practices. 

What to Consider When Developing Holiday Pay Policies

If you choose to offer holiday pay, though it is not required by holiday pay laws, begin by assessing your practice’s needs. In some cases, closing is not an option. For example, if there is no emergency or 24-hour veterinary service in your area, your practice may be the only option when pets have an accident or become critically ill. Patients count on you to be available. However, that doesn’t prevent you from rewarding team members with additional compensation when they cover holiday shifts.

Make a list of the holidays your practice will observe and whether you will be fully open, on-call for emergencies, or closed. Many practices choose to observe New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. 

Next, have a look at your employee roster before deciding who is eligible for holiday pay. You can offer this benefit to all team members, or you can set requirements like full-time versus part-time or length of service. However, if your eligibility requirements exclude just one or two members of the group, you may want to reconsider your plan. There is no value in singling out a few of your team members. 

Decide how you will pay non-exempt/hourly employees who are off for the day, those who are on call for emergencies, and those who work holiday shifts. For example, some practices pay 1.5 times for hours worked on the holiday in addition to holiday pay to reward team members willing to pick up these less-desirable hours.

Employees who are exempt/salaried rarely receive extra pay for working on holidays, but you might offer a small bonus or an alternative day off to show your appreciation.

 

Recommended Reading 📃 The Unofficial Guide to Paid vs. Unpaid Leave

 

Communicating Holiday Pay Policies

Misunderstandings around holiday pay laws and your practice’s holiday pay policies can lead to disappointed and discouraged employees. It is best to communicate early and often which holidays are observed, whether employees must work, and how they will be paid — preferably in writing.

Start by updating your employee handbook, then be sure to collect acknowledgments from the entire team. You can automate this process with HR for Health software to save time. Finally, go over the process for entering holiday pay on timesheets, if applicable, so there are no errors when the time comes.

The experienced HR professionals with HR for Health can help you navigate the complexities of federal and state holiday regulations. Whether you’re looking for HR support for a small business or you’re a large group dental practice, HR for Health has the solution to fit your practice and budget. Reach out to a HR for Health account representative to learn more, today.

Topics: HR Tips, Wages, holiday pay, holidays, office policies

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