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Time Out: Make Sure Your Time-Off Policies are Clear, Appropriate

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 9:00 AM

BSM Products and Services, Expert Advice

Written by: BSM staff

Allan Walker
Former Director of Publication Services

'Tis the season for taking time off.

While providing a comprehensive benefits package (health insurance, professional development opportunities, time off, stock/buy-in options, etc.) is critical to the overall success of a practice, no single piece of the benefits package is more important than meeting the time-off needs of employees. Time-off misunderstandings can have a tremendous negative impact on employee morale.

Below are examples of important time-off verbiage/policies that can be adopted and/or customized, as necessary. The examples should be incorporated into a comprehensive practice policy and procedure manual and reviewed annually. It is important that these “benefits” be clearly written and articulated to all employees.


  • Full-time employees will be paid for each of the following holidays: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day (editor's note: many companies also include the day after Thanksgiving), and Christmas Day.
  • Employees must work the business day preceding and following the holiday or have the office manager approve the absence to be paid for the holiday.
  • There may be days throughout the year when the office is closed for a non-specific holiday. To be paid for this time out of the office, employees may wish to utilize a vacation day or personal time.


  • Employees are granted the following days of vacation based upon their length of continuous active service to the practice: Years 1-4: 2 weeks (10 days); Years 5-9: 3 weeks (15 days); Years 10+: 4 weeks (20 days).
  • An employee is eligible for vacation following three (3) months of employment.
  • Vacation days may be taken in four-hour (4) increments at any time during the year with approval of the supervisor and/or office manager.
  • In case of a conflict, the employee who submits the request for vacation time first will be given preference.
  • The time desired for vacation should be submitted to the office manager in writing at least 30 days in advance.
  • Since vacation provides a period of needed rest and recreation, each employee is expected to take his/her full-allotted vacation time during the year it is earned.
  • Unused vacation time cannot be carried over into the next year. Unused vacation days will be lost, and no pay received.
  • Vacation time will be kept on a calendar-year basis (Jan. 1 to Dec. 31).
  • The office manager will record the status of vacation days for each employee. All questions concerning vacations should be directed to the office manager.

Personal Time Off

  • An employee may use up to two and a half (2.5) days, or twenty (20) hours, for personal reasons per year.
  • This time may be taken in hourly increments. Personal time off that exceeds the allowed amount will be treated as time off without pay.
  • An employee may not use overtime as personal time off.
  • Personal time off should be requested and approved three (3) days in advance. The supervisor and/or office manager must give approval.
  • Unused personal time off will be reimbursed at the end of the calendar year.
  • Personal time off cannot be carried over to the next year.

Sick Leave

  • An employee is eligible for sick leave with pay after three (3) months continuous employment.
  • Six (6) days of sick leave with pay are accrued each year and may be used in four-hour (4) increments.
  • Sick time that exceeds the allotted amount will be treated as time off without pay. Extra time off is not granted for illness during vacation or holiday.
  • A maximum of three (3) days of unused sick leave can be carried over to the next year.
  • In case of absence due to illness, employees will notify their immediate supervisor or the office manager as soon as possible. Do not leave a message with a fellow employee. The office manager will record the status of sick leave for each employee.

Show You Care

Time off is important to employees. Creating and following written time-off policies and procedures ensures that all parties understand the meaning of “time off.” Taking appropriate time to focus on time-off issues sends a clear message that you care about your employees both in and away from the office.

USEFUL RESOURCE: BSM offers a draft employee handbook that not only covers time-off policies, but compensation policies, standards of conduct, practice policies and procedures, and more. Click here or call us to learn more.


  • Ron Purnell said Reply

    For those of us not in the Southern states, an inclement weather policy?

    • BSMAdmin said Reply

      Great observation Ron. A thoughtful and detailed inclement weather policy is a must for every practice, including those located in seemingly “nice-weather” locales. While northern practices may get buried in snow or suffer freezing winter conditions, southern providers can fall victim to weather-related activity such as flooding, fires, hurricanes, heat waves, and tornadoes. Any “inclement weather” policy needs to clearly spell out the responsibilities of all parties (i.e., who monitors the situation, who contacts whom) and include a timeline that ensures all steps will be initiated and taken well in advance of the time the event actually begins to impact the practice and patients.

  • misty stoner said Reply

    How do most employers grant time off when multiple staff want the same time?

    • BSMAdmin said Reply

      Conflicting time-off requests usually occur during specific, peak periods (i.e., Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, spring break, summer vacation) and require a delicate touch that likely involves flexibility, managerial discretion, and a concerted effort to avoid any semblance of favoritism. The first step in having an effective time-off policy is making sure it is memorialized in your policy and procedure manual (that you regularly review and update as necessary). Your time-off policy should be covered in detail as part of your onboarding process. It is equally important to make sure all team members clearly understand that properly staffing the practice is the top priority and that individual cooperation is required and expected. Make it known that, while every effort will be made to accommodate all requests, there will be times when that is not possible and that time-off requests can and will be denied. That’s all part of being a team.

      That said, here are several ways to manage multiple, conflicting time-off requests:

      • Seniority
      • First-come, first-served
      • Set request dates on both ends (i.e., can’t put a date request in a year in advance; can’t ask for a week off just a few days in advance)
      • Establish a reasonable rotation schedule (i.e., who took off this specific time previously)
      • Determine who needs this time off more (i.e., does someone have their whole family coming for Thanksgiving for the first time in years; is a there special August family reunion)
      • Set up a “reward system” (i.e., a person who compromises gets first choice for a different prime time-off time)

      Do any other readers have thoughts on how to handle time-off conflicts?

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