The best time to think about your office policy for holidays is when there is not a holiday looming in the near future. That makes this a good time to review and improve your policy.
Do you ever wonder how to handle the pay of an employee who has a scheduled day off on a holiday? What if a holiday falls on a Sunday? Do you struggle with what to do for part time vs. full time? What about hourly vs. salaried? Like many employment policies, there is no one right way to manage holidays in your practice, but in this article, I’ll share what I do in my practice and give you some help to decide what will work for yours.
At least have a policy
Many optometric practices don’t have written office policies, but that just makes you have to reinvent what to do over and over. And it leads to hard feelings by some employees who may have envisioned things differently. Once you have a policy and get past any objections, all becomes easy and fair. So just write down what you decide and you will have the start of an employee manual, which can be revised over time.
The two main factors to consider are which holidays the office will always be closed and how employees will be paid for those days. You can still make special decisions for additional days off depending on the day of the week and other factors.
Before deciding on which holidays, you may wonder if you should have any paid holidays as an employment benefit. It is very standard practice for full time employees, so I think it is a good idea. It is expected by the workforce and it helps you attract and retain good employees. The typical holidays most companies pay for in the United States are: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Of course, this is up to the business owner and you can choose whatever days you wish. Some progressive companies are trying to increase employment benefits and adding Christmas Eve and the day after Thanksgiving. Some may be closed for Jewish holidays.
How will you pay?
There are many ways to go, but I’ll describe the method that works best in my practice. It is different for hourly employees vs. salaried. Most of our employees are paid hourly so let’s talk about that first. By the way, you should decide on your definition of full time for hourly staff and put that in your office manual. What is the minimum number of hours per week a person must be scheduled to work to be considered full time? Many businesses use 32 hours of scheduled time, but some government programs are moving toward 30. Businesses can generally still decide when it comes to issues like holiday pay and other employment perks. Of course, you can still schedule most employees at 40 hours if you wish, but it is good to have your definition for special situations.
Hourly employees in my practice are simply paid extra for each holiday during the pay period it falls in. This eliminates any discussion about if the holiday is on an employee’s usual day off or if it falls on a Sunday when the office is usually closed. It doesn’t matter. The employee gets paid for the hours they clock in for plus the extra holiday pay. If the holiday falls on the day off and employees get paid more than their usual amount for a pay period that is fine with me.
Salaried employees get their usual salary every pay period, regardless of holidays. They get holidays off.
Special days off
As a small business owner, you can make special decisions about days to be closed on an ongoing basis. I recommend looking well ahead at the calendar and what days of the week holidays fall on. Then use your judgment if you (and your staff) want additional days off or not. For example, Christmas is on a Sunday this year. You might decide to be closed on Saturday (Christmas Eve) to give everyone a nice holiday weekend. You could even extend it into Monday.
Here are some important factors to consider:
What is the policy for paying employees for these optional additional days off? No right or wrong here, but have a policy. In my practice, hourly employees are only paid for hours worked, so there is no additional pay for special days when we are closed. Salaried employees receive their usual salary.
Based on the point above, I try to balance the general enjoyment of extra days off work with the need for employees to earn a full paycheck. If you don’t close the office too many additional days and if you listen to employee feedback, you can strike the right balance.
Keep patient convenience in mind. I realize that one’s own personal and family life matters the most, but if you are trying to build a practice, patients’ needs matter a lot as well. The ideal situation is to work toward having other optometrists in the practice so the owner can take personal time off without closing the office.
Revenue and profit are reduced when the office is closed.
Always use extra care when changing your office policies, even if they were not in writing. It is generally not a good idea to take anything away from employees without giving them something of equal or greater value at the same time. Setting a grandfather clause often works well to allow existing employees to continue with a policy, while changing it for the future.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.