Laid back or Strictly Followed
Does your practice have a laid back atmosphere among employees? Do you want your employees to have some flexibility of when they can take time off? Regardless of how lenient you want your plan to be, you should still have some sort of monitoring system. This can be as simple as a wall-mounted calendar on which all staff write their planned vacation and personal days. If you are using something that simple, you will still want to implement a manual system to keep track of how many sick, personal or late days a staffer takes. The main risk you have to face is employees that abuse the plan. Even if paid time off (PTO) plans are very generous, there can be some employees that try to take advantage of it.
On the other hand, if you want to adopt more formal time-off policies, a PTO bank is one popular method to consider. This policy pools vacation days, sick time and personal time, allowing staffers to take those days off for whatever reason they see fit. This way there is no difference between a sick day or vacation day, so employees will not have the option to act sick just to utilize one of their days. It is important to note that PTO usually will not include holidays, which should be taken into account separately.
Having a PTO bank allows for employees to take time off and not have to explain why. How an employee spends their time outside of work is their freedom and employees typically appreciate not having to say why they are not coming to work.
Commonly, the PTO system allows days or hours to accumulate over the time a staffer remains at your practice. For example, each year an employee may get an additional day in their bank or maybe the addition of days is based off of a certain amount of years.
It is an open question as to whether staff should be able to carry over PTO days annually. Some practices allow staff to carry unused days, or unused days up to a pre-specified limit, into the next year. Part of the rationale is that PTO is part of employee benefits packages, and they should be allowed to carry days over. On the other hand, PTO it is accrued yearly and staff should manage their time to make sure they use it by a certain date. This avoids an issue of too many employees using their PTO at once.
There may be times where you need all hands on deck, such as February’s flu season for a family physician. However, depending on your practice, it may be impossible to predict when it will be at its busiest or slowest times. In any event, it makes sense to consider dates when you ask your employees to consider not taking PTO in order to help assist with the influx of patients.
Whichever approach is best for your practice, consistency among employees is key. Even if you are implementing a flexible plan, it should be documented in the employee handbook. Establishing a set policy and putting it in writing will help resolve future conflicts.
It is also important to track the number of hours and days that staffers are taking off and how much time they have accumulated. This is particularly true if you are allowing carryover of PTO each year.
Payroll software often incorporates tracking systems that allow tracking of PTO hours, sick days and tardiness. This can provide support for why you might approve one person’s time off and not another’s. Most practice management software can also track this as well.
Another aspect to consider when developing a program is how to handle maternity, paternity and adoption leave. All practices treat these differently and it is something to consider.
It is important to keep in mind that these types of policies are subject to state and federal regulations, including the Family and Medical Leave Act. After you create a policy, and before you add it to your handbook, ask a qualified employment law attorney to review it. Getting the benefit of outside expertise can ensure that the policy will go forward with minimal problems down the road.