Vacation Policy Best Practices

We all daydream about where our next travel adventure will take us. I just got back from spending 10 days in paradise down in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. My husband and I were celebrating our 10-year anniversary and had the most amazing trip ever! Now I am back in the snow and suffering through this -20 degree Celsius weather!

But this is something that happens quite frequently in dental practices…a team member booked a holiday and is now asking for some time off. This can put some strain on your practice. What is the best way to handle this? After all, everyone deserves a vacation and some work/life balance.

How do you balance this while also trying to run & grow your business, keep your schedule busy AND keep your patients & team happy?!?


Have it Down in Writing

First things first: It is important that your employees understand how your practice vacation pay works, the scheduling of vacation days, and the stipulations around requesting vacation. This can be done by having a dedicated policy that outlines what the office expectations are and what the office protocol is. By having this you will avoid those awkward conversations, misinterpretations, or worse yet, you have multiple employees on holidays at the same time-- leaving you shorthanded!!! {Not a great position to be in}

So, let’s avoid that by having a good and effective Vacation policy. It is also important that your Vacation Policy be compliant with your provincial, territorial or state employment standards. Because every province & state have different regulations, amount of vacation days and how they should be compensated. For example, I am here in Alberta and vacation time is based on the length of employment. For instance: 1-5 years is calculated at 4% of their wages which equals 2 weeks of pay. 5 years or more they get 6% or 3 weeks holidays.

So, let’s break this down into what should be included in the policy and how to implement this in your practice:

What Should Be Included in The Vacation Policy

  1. Explain how vacation days are being calculated and paid out. Is this being accrued over time or paid out on every pay cheque?
  2. When can it be taken…
    • Does it have to be used during this calendar year or can it be carried over?
    • The maximum length of vacation days can be taken consecutively. For example: if I have 3 weeks vacation, can I take all three weeks consecutively or should this be broken up over the calendar year?
    • If there are conflicting dates—how should this be handled? Multiple employees request the same time off, how will this be handled?
    • How should popular vacation period like Christmas, new years and long weekends be handled to allow for fair treatment amongst all employees?
  3. How vacation time should be requested- How far in advance do they need to request time off? For example, it's a Saturday afternoon and you get a text that your hygienist just booked a last minute trip and will be gone for 2 weeks starting you are left EXTREMELY short-handed. Having a policy that outline the process and timeline for requesting vacation time will avoid these stressful scenarios!

How Can This Be Implemented?

  1. Have your team members read and sign the vacation policy and save a copy in their employee file for easy reference.
  2. The office manager should have a vacation tracking master spreadsheet to know how many vacation days each employee is entitled too, who is on holidays and when they are away = so that you don’t accidentally double book multiple team members off!
  3. Have a vacation request form whereby the team member writes out their requested days off and contingency plan-- ie: how their vacation time will be covered. This is given to the office manager/Dentist at least X number of weeks in advance and approved by them before the vacation is booked.
  4. Save the approved vacation request form in their employee file.

Can you see how important it is to have a Vacation policy AND Vacation protocol in place? There is SO much more involved than just having a standard policy written out. You need systems and accountability to ensure everything is running smoothly for the entire office—team, doc’s and for your patients!

Need help putting the HR documents together? We have this ready-made structures in place that include Vacation policy, request form and master spreadsheet so you can implement this in your practice right away!


The Importance of Dental Administration

The administration department of any organization plays a vital role in ensuring that the company operates in a smooth and hassle-free manner. In fact, efficient administrators work to help coordinate the entire office to help it run efficiently and achieving desired results. Like most companies, a dental practice too, has its own sets of challenges and needs effective administration to cater to their patients’ requirements as well as function and operate smoothly.

The Role of Administrators
You are a very important part of the team, the office needs you to run smoothly. You are also the “front-line” of a dental practice, you will usually be the first point of contact over the phone or on patient arrival. Remember, a lot of people may not be a fan of going to the dentist, so a pleasant smile and friendly demeanor go a long way! But there are other things that a Dental Administrator needs to excel at as well;

1. Being Organized: A dental practice needs to focus on developing appropriate operating procedures and processes. Dental Administrators should have an effective process in place to help the office run smoothly. From getting the office organized, to looking after all the front-line duties, Administrators should stress on developing appropriate administrative processes.

Part of a team
2. Ability to Multi-task: An administrator is responsible for administering the day-to-day activities of the office; from maintaining patient records to scheduling appointments, to maintaining the appearance and order of the dental office. You need to be flexible and able to juggle many responsibilities at once.

3. Being Personable: You are the first point of contact and often the first-person patients talk to. You need to be friendly and must put the patients first. You may even take the role of a “counselor” to help ease the patient's fears, if they have any, and be able to answer any questions they may have.

As a Dental Administrator, you help represent the dental practice. You must be professional, organized and friendly in treating patients in the right manner and cater to the requirements of the office. The administration department of any dental practice should emphasize on effective communication, making sure the office has processes and procedure in place and help with creating a smooth functioning office. You are a valued member of the dental team. They count on you to help with the office and your administrative duties!


How Important is Cross Training your Team?

Is there really value in cross-training? Of course there is! People get sick, go on holidays and need time off for one reason or another. Maybe you can get by for a day or two, but it can impact your office and team’s performance, especially when the ONLY person who knows how to complete that task is the one missing! That is exactly why it is important to cross train your team, so productivity, efficiency & quality of patient care do not suffer. Here are a few reasons why it is beneficial to cross train for better and effective management.

Relevance of Cross-Training

Simply put, cross training implies training the employees in a manner that they are able to handle each other’s responsibility in the absence of one another. This would allow the practice to operate smoothly even when one or more of their employees are on leave or have resigned from their jobs. Dental practices that have cross trained team members can add value in more ways than one:

A Well-Connected Team: One of the biggest advantages of cross training is that it allows the practice to train their staff appropriately and generate awareness around the working style and requirements of each team member. This allows the team to understand each other’s roles.

Improve Efficiency: Another benefit of cross training is that it improves their overall efficiency. When one employee trains another employee he/she is adding value to their own profile as well as enhancing the knowledge of the other employee too. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. This enables one employee to better analyze and understand their role and think of unique ideas or ways to train other employees. This allows dental practices to build trust within the organization, improve communication and encourage their employees to learn new and exciting skills.

Improving the Work Environment: With cross training, dental practices can improve the overall work culture and environment, thereby allowing employees to perform different tasks instead of engaging in the same thing on a daily basis. Rather than performing the same set of responsibilities every day, dental assistants and other professionals will get the unique opportunity to handle different job roles and portfolios and explore their true potential and capabilities.

Function Smoothly: Cross training enables dental practices to function in an uninterrupted and smooth manner. When an employee is sick or is no longer working for the practice, another person can jump in and ensure that the practice continues to running smoothly. Thus, it allows dental offices to cater to their patient’s needs and even if they are running short-handed.


We know cross training takes time and it is extra work, but the benefits are worth the time and effort.