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Guide to Holiday Pay Laws for Dentists, Optometrists, & Veterinarians

UPDATED 12/19/22

From legal to religious holidays, there seems to be something to celebrate every few work weeks.

While giving your employees holiday time is important, closing your dental, optometry, veterinary, or other medical practice for every holiday listed on the calendar would not be practical.

However, to ensure employee morale stays high in your practice, you need to keep your employees well-informed about the holiday schedule that your practice keeps.

Under federal law, there are 11 national holidays that the federal government in Washington, DC, gives special recognition:

  • New Year's Day (January 1)
  • Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Third Monday in January)
  • Washington's Birthday/Presidents Day (Third Monday in February)
  • Memorial Day (Last Monday in May)
  • Juneteenth (June 19)
  • Independence Day (July 4)
  • Labor Day (First Monday in September)
  • Columbus Day (Second Monday in October)
  • Veterans' Day (November 11)
  • Thanksgiving Day (Fourth Thursday in November)
  • Christmas Day (December 25)

Most government offices are closed on these federal holidays or the following Monday if they fall on a weekend, and government employees receive holiday pay. Many businesses do the same, but does that mean you and other private employers must follow suit?

After all, emergencies don't take holidays off; you never know when your patients will need you. Ensure you have the facts about state laws, federal holiday pay laws, and your legal obligations for paid holidays before finalizing your holiday pay policies. 

There's Good News and Bad News About Holiday Pay Laws 

Regarding holiday pay laws for religious or legal holidays, the good news is this: You are not required to close your dental, optometry, or veterinary practice. Perhaps more importantly, you aren't required to pay your employees for the time off if you do close. Additionally, you do not have to pay extra for those who work the holidays. That's helpful for veterinary, dental, and optometry practices because patients appreciate the convenience of holiday appointments. These spots tend to fill up quickly.

The bad news about holiday pay laws is that while you don't have to offer premium pay for work days that a holiday falls on, you probably should. Giving paid time off for all 11 days is unnecessary, but you risk issues with employee engagement if you pass on holiday pay altogether. After all, your team members have families, too. Among other issues, working holidays can present challenges with childcare.

Offering at least a few paid holidays shows your team how much you value their hard work in caring for patients each workday. You let your employees know that their needs are top priorities and that you do your best with reasonable accommodations. Holiday pay ensures they can afford to take one or more days off for vacation time to rest, relax, and reconnect with friends and family. 

This time off contributes to healthy levels of employee engagement, directly linking to improved productivity, reduced turnover, and a better patient experience. It's also worth mentioning that holiday pay benefits give you a competitive edge in attracting and retaining top talent. That's important given the difficulty of finding qualified candidates in today's labor market for dental, optometry, and veterinary practices. 

What to Consider When Developing Policies That Adhere to Holiday Pay Laws

Holiday pay laws do not require private companies to provide holiday pay. However, if you choose to offer holiday pay, you should begin by assessing your practice's needs. In some cases, closing is not an option. For example, if there is no emergency or 24-hour veterinary service in your area, your veterinary practice may be the only option when pets have an accident or become critically ill.

Patients count on you to be available. However, that doesn't prevent you from rewarding team members with additional compensation if the employee works a holiday shift.

List the holidays your practice will observe and whether you will be fully open, on-call for emergencies, or closed. Many practices observe New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. 

Holiday Pay Part-Time Employees vs. Full-Time Employees

Next, look at your employee roster before deciding who is eligible for holiday pay. You can offer this employee benefit to all team members or set requirements such as full-time versus part-time or length of service. However, if your eligibility requirements exclude just one or two group members, you may want to reconsider your plan for holiday pay time. There is no value in singling out a few of your team members. 

Decide how you will pay non-exempt employees vs. hourly employees who are off for the day, those on call for emergencies, and those who work holiday shifts. For example, some practices pay 1.5 times for hours worked on the holiday and extra pay or holiday pay to reward team members willing to pick up these less-desirable hours.

Employees who are exempt/salaried rarely receive additional compensation for working on holidays. Still, you might offer a small bonus, floating holiday, alternative vacation days, and their regular rate to show your appreciation.

In addition, regardless of holiday pay rates, you should comply with all Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rules regarding double-time and overtime pay rates. You must always stay on top of your work schedule, ensuring that your employees are not working more hours per week than the U.S. Department of Labor approves.

Communicating Holiday Pay Policies

Misunderstandings around holiday pay laws and your practice's holiday pay policies can lead to disappointed and discouraged employees. It is best to communicate early and often which holidays are observed, whether employees must work, and how they will be paid — preferably in writing.

Start by updating your employee handbook, answer FAQs, and then be sure to collect acknowledgments from the entire team. You can automate this process and outsource other responsibilities of human resources with HR for Health software. Finally, go over the process for entering holiday pay on timesheets, if applicable, so there are no errors when the time comes.

How HR for Health Can Help

The experienced HR professionals with HR for Health can help you navigate the complexities of federal and state holiday pay laws and regulations. Whether you're looking for HR support for small optometry or veterinary business or an extensive group dental practice, HR for Health has the solution to fit your practice and budget. 

Schedule a demo