Four tips on holiday pay in the dental practice

With the holidays upon us, some dentists and their staff may begin to think about time off. With this in mind, understanding employment laws related to holiday pay is important.

CDA Practice Support Analyst Michelle Corbo recommends dentists update their employee manuals to reflect detailed policies on holiday pay.

"Dentists should set a clear understanding of what days employee will be able to take off and what type of pay they will receive for that time off, if any," Corbo said. "It's a good idea to add this topic to an upcoming staff huddle or meeting to discuss practice holiday office closures, employer expectations and address any employee questions."

Below are four tips dentists should keep in mind in terms of holiday pay.

1. It is up to the dentist to decide which holidays to observe as paid holidays.

The California Department of Industrial Relations specifies, "California law does not require that an employer provide its employees with paid holidays." Federal and state employees have designated legal holidays. However, private employers determine which holidays to observe and whether they will be paid or unpaid. Should you choose to offer paid holidays, you decide which holidays will be observed and determine the eligibility requirements. You can also stipulate that a nonexempt employee be employed for a specified period of time prior to eligibility. It is good business practice to provide employees with a list of days the office will be closed for holidays and whether the employees will be paid during those closures. Note: It is recommended that you review and post this list annually, as some may fall on days the office is already closed, in which case you will want to decide whether to observe the holiday on an alternative day, and which day. Be sure to include your paid holiday policy, if any, in your employee manual and notify employees of any changes.

2. Inform employees that they will not be paid for holidays that fall on a weekend.

Unless there is an existing policy in place, California law does not require employers pay employees holiday pay if the employees do not work on those holidays. However, if an employer wishes to compensate an employee when a holiday falls on a day the office is typically closed, add language to the employee manual to address this situation. Often an employer will offer Friday as a holiday if the designated holiday falls on a Saturday or offer Monday as a holiday if the designated holiday falls on a Sunday.

3. Understand how to pay employees who have to work on a holiday.

California law does not require a private employer to provide employees paid holidays. Additionally, there is nothing in the law that mandates an employer pay an employee a special premium for work performed on a holiday, Saturday or Sunday, other than overtime pay if the employee works more than eight hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek. However, if other employees are given the holiday off with pay, California courts have held that you must make up the lost benefit to the employee in some manner. Some employers offer the employee another day off with pay or pay the employee for the hours worked plus an additional day of pay to reflect the holiday. Exempt employees (those employees exempt from federal overtime laws) who perform any work during the workweek in which a holiday occurs must be paid their full weekly salary, whether they work on the actual holiday or not, and whether or not the holiday is considered a paid holiday. Holiday policy should be included in the employee manual and should address what happens when an employee has to work on a day that was previously designated a paid holiday.

4. It is up to the dentist to decide whether to close the practice on a holiday.

There is nothing in state law that requires an employer to close business on any particular day. It is up to the employer to select which days, if any, to be closed for business. If an employer is open on a holiday and schedules an employee to work that day, there is nothing in the law that obligates an employer to pay anything beyond regular pay and any overtime hours worked.

Should dentists decide to provide holiday benefits to their employees, CDA Practice Support has sample policy language available in the Sample Employee Manual at cda.org/practicesupport.

Related Items

Employee discipline is one of the hardest, but necessary, components of practice ownership and employing staff. It's human nature to avoid confrontation. As a leader, it's important to set the ground rules from the first day of employment. Creating an atmosphere of collaboration, mutual respect and trust early on can reap long-term rewards for the employee, the dentist as the employer and ultimately the practice.

Not only must dentists stay up to date on advances in technology, they must also stay current on ever-changing employment laws. As owners or partners of practices, employee issues will always be of concern and importance to dentists. A pregnant employee usually prompts many questions and concerns in the office, for the dentist and the staff as well as the employee herself. It is best to know how to handle these situations before they arise.

Many dental practices, because of their small size, may not be required to provide benefits to employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the California Family Rights Act. However, there may be other laws that do apply to employee leave. We have listed the four types of leaves for baby bonding/pregnancy that dentists and their staff should be aware of as well as a description of who is eligible and the amount of leave available under each type.

Developed by and reviewed by attorneys to be used specifically in a dental practice. This Employee Manual template reflects revised 2019 policies, and includes updated policies in the areas of discrimination, harassment and retaliation prevention and training requirements, lactation breaks, minimum wage across CA, video surveillance, smoking policies, education and training pay and the New Parental Leave act (2018).

An employee manual clearly outlines expectations and office policies, which makes it one of the most important reference and communication tools between an employer and employees.