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Opinion-Make up time or PTO?

Please advise-We are a company of under 150 hourly employees that work in the medical field. With our schedules being more structured than many 9-5 jobs we require some stability in our staffing, still there are periods of time that we can be flexible with our employees. We have differences of opinions on whether or not we allow employees to “make up” time that they may need to miss for things such as doctor appts, etc.

Most employees have 2 wks of vacation and 5 sick days that accumulate as PTO time. Would you allow employees to “make up” time that they have missed or REQUIRE them to use PTO for ANY time they are outside of their regularly scheduled hours? Why/Why not?

An an HR pro, your guiding philosphy in making these types of policies should be twofold:
1. What policy does the law require?
2. What policy is best for the organization overall, not the individual employee?

In this case, there is no specific employment law that dictates policies surrounding this issue unless the employee is entitled to time off under FMLA or ADA.

As an employer, you have the right to schedule employees as necessary to benefit the company and provide service to the patients. You also have the obligation to do what is best for the company. This is particularly important because you are responsible for providing a certain level of care to patients. So your policy should be dictated by business necessity.

We would advise that you require employees to use PTO for any absence from work. Most employers have such a policy.

One of the main purposes of PTO is to limit the amount of time that employees can take off — to limit their schedule flexibility, if you will. If you allow employees to take time off without using PTO, and make it up at their convenience, you are basically implementing a policy that will allow each employee to write her own schedule every week.

Suppose your employee Jane is expected to work Monday to Friday, 7 am to 3 pm. You might find that she is suddenly taking every Tuesday off and working a few hours later on other days. Or, she might take a different day off every week, with no way of predicting it. Or she may decide to work two half days, and work later the other 3 days. Except when she does not want to. Multiply this behavior by 150, and you have total chaos that will make it impossible to run your business.

Sadly, no HR pro can assume that workers are reasonable people who will not take advantage of a policy. It is human nature to try to test the limits, and to turn any situation to ones own benefit. We can almost guarantee that if you implement this policy, within 6 months you will find it impossible to run your business. You may envision a situation where an employee could miss 2 hours of work every 3 months for a doctors appointment. In truth, you would basically be telling employees “come and go as you please — we will pay you for any time you choose to work.”

The concept of being flexible with employees is a good one — but you must set reasonable limits on it. That is the purpose of PTO. It provides a reasonable amount of paid time off for employees to handle their personal business, without creating chaos for your company. The sort of “flex-time” arrangement you are (unintentionally?) proposing might work well in a situation where everyone was doing administrative work that could be done any time of day, and there were no patients to care for.

Your intention is that this policy would be used only for doctors appointments or other legitimate reasons, but we can promise that will not be the case. As an employer, if you set yourself up to determine what are or are not reasonable uses of unpaid time off, you may be guilty of illegal discrimination. So you would have to allow every employee to take time off whenever they please.

The best practice would be to require employees to use PTO to take any time off at all. An employee who does not use PTO is expected to work her schedule. That is a very simple and reasonable policy.

From time to time, when an employee takes PTO to leave early one day, you may need coverage on another day. At that point, you could schedule the employee to work those hours. Suppose employee Tanisha leaves work 4 hours early on Wednesday, and requests PTO. On Thursday, due to a staffing shortage, you need someone to work 4 hours late. You schedule Tanisha to cover those hours. She would be paid for the time she worked. Because Tanisha has worked the normal number of hours that week, she would not be entitled to PTO. However, you should implement this policy only when it benefits the company — not at the employees discreation.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, May 19th, 2011 at 6:09 am and is filed under
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