Dust off your employee manual

Dust off your employee manual

Jun 01, 2007

Mark Opperman
Here's a question you're not going to want to answer: When was the last time you updated your employee manual? I'd guess that most of you don't know. That means it's time to take it out, shake off the cobwebs, and start revising. As you do, consider the following human resources issues. They're areas of big change—and you'll want to address them in your practice.

Paid time off

Traditionally, practices have offered employees a certain number of days off for vacation, sick leave, or personal time. But more and more practices are rolling all those days into "paid time off." With PTO, you don't pay for time off that hasn't been earned.

Let's say you offer an employee two weeks of vacation after two years of employment. That employee works for you for two years and one day—and leaves. You'd have to pay the team member for his or her two weeks of vacation.

Employees earn PTO based on their length of employment. So a team member might earn a day or two off a month depending on how long he or she has worked for you. This method of accrual protects you from paying for vacation and personal time that the employee hasn't earned.


How many paid holidays do you offer, and is it time to change them? Most practices cover the six major holidays: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas (or the Jewish New Year). Many practices also give full-time employees their birthday off. That's an easy way to show team members you appreciate them, and it can improve retention. The trend now is to increase the number of holidays employees get. The average for a U.S. company is 10, but veterinary clinics average six.

What happens if a holiday falls on a day the employee doesn't normally work? Are you still required to pay him or her? The answer is yes, unless you have a policy like this in your employee manual: "If a holiday falls on a day that the employee is not normally scheduled to work, the employee will not receive any additional compensation for that day. The holiday benefit is paid only if the employee would normally have been paid for the day but, since the hospital was closed, he or she was unable to work." (This policy does not apply in California, where employees must be paid for holidays whether or not they fall on a workday.) If you wish to pay employees on a day they wouldn't normally work, that's your prerogative, but you need to write that policy into your manual. (For more on competitive benefits, see "Sweeten the Deal" of the June 2006 issue of Veterinary Economics.)

Drug and alcohol testing

I know I need to do this, but what about ... ?
You need a drug and alcohol policy both as a condition of employment and for your active employees. If your employment protocol doesn't include a drug and alcohol testing policy as part of your employment protocol, who are the people who have a drug or alcohol problem going to work for? They're going to come work for you!