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PTO vs Sick Leave vs Vacation Time: What To Know

You might be surprised to learn how much time off from work your employees need. They can't be fully rested if you're not taking care of them.

Running a medical practice comes with a lot of challenges. Regardless of the type of specialty you practice, patients probably expect your practice to be open just about every day. At the same time, your employees are human, and they will need time off from time to time. You might even realize that your practice is more productive when you provide your employees with paid time off. This is an important mental health break that provides them with an opportunity to recharge.

There are a lot of words you will hear floating around, and it is important for you to understand the difference. For example, you have probably heard about paid time off (PTO), sick leave, and vacation time. What do you need to know about your paid time off policy, and how can you make sure it is clear to your employees?

Comparing Paid Time Off To Sick Leave and Vacation

First, it is important to cover the difference between paid time off (PTO), sick leave, and vacation time. Paid time off refers to any type of time your employee can take away from the practice and still be paid. You need to specify what type of leave the employee can request and still have it be considered “PTO.” Two of the most common categories are vacation time and sick leave.

These are exactly what they sound like. If an employee is sick and unable to come to work, they can still get paid for that day if they request sick leave and get it approved by the company. Vacation is time away from the practice for personal reasons or pleasure, and this is paid as long as it is approved by the company. Therefore, vacation time and sick leave can be viewed as subsets of PTO.

The Different Types of Paid Time Off

There are different types of PTO that you might offer your employees. Some of the most common examples include:

• Jury Duty: If one of your employees gets called in for jury duty, you probably won't have much of a choice other than to give them paid time off.

• Vacation Time: If your employer wants to take time away from work to go on vacation, it comes out of his or her vacation days.

• Holiday or Religious Time: Because your medical practice might still be open on government holidays, you might provide your employees with an opportunity to take time off for religious holidays or government holidays.

• Parental Leave: If one of your employees has a new baby at home, you might want to provide him or her with some paid time off to take care of his or her newborn child.

• Sick Time: If an employee gets sick, you probably don't want him or her to come to work. Otherwise, other employees and patients could get sick. Your PTO policy might also include sick leave.

These are just a few of the most common examples of PTO that you might provide for your employees.


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How To Set a PTO Policy: The Basics

It is critical for you to have a clear PTO policy in place. Some of the most important points you need to cover in your PTO policy include:

• Do PTO days roll over to the next year?

• Do you want to give your employees the opportunity to “sell” their PTO days back to the practice?

• How many days of PTO do you give your employees per year?

• How far in advance do your employees have to request time off before it can be granted?

• When your employees leave the practice for any reason, do you pay out the remaining PTO days?

• Do your employers have a separate pool of PTO days for vacation and sick leave?

• If an employee requests time off when they no longer have any PTO days, can they get unpaid days off?

You must make sure the answers to these questions are clearly specified in the employee handbook. That way, you can reduce the chances of dealing with confusion down the road.


How HR for Health Can Help

Ready to get started with HR for Health? Contact us today to set up a fifteen-minute consultation and learn more about how HR for Health can help your practice grow and protect you from various HR challenges - including bullying. 

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