Vacation Policies and Holidays

Thank you to our readers for the great questions and feedback we receive on a variety of practice management issues.  In our last issue, we shared a question from one of our readers wondering how to fairly deal with staff vacation requests during the holidays.

We had a lot of great ideas on this topic from you and wanted to share some of them with you today.  If you have issues in your practice where you would like feedback from your peers, send us questions to

Reader Responses
“What policies can a smaller practice implement to be fair when allowing vacation time around the holidays.  Seniority doesn’t seem fair, but I’m not sure what other method to use.  Can you help?”

Our practice uses the first come first serve method. One person per department per day. Who ever fills out a leave request first will get it. We are a small practice as well and every person is needed. This policy has worked well for us. It makes the employees think about making vacation plans in advance – not waiting till the last minute to plan. You will come across special requests and when that happens its a matter of looking closely at your schedules and deciding if the office can accommodate, if not we just say I’m sorry.  

Sherry L. Hartranft, McLean, VA

Generally this issue affects parents of younger children with school holidays outside the usual traditional holidays. Whatever policy you develop, it has to be consistently applied. My favorite method of resolving this is to get the staff’s input. What do they think is fair? Let them sort it out. Most policies need to be adjusted periodically based on the demographics of your staff.

Ron Cline, Marietta, OH


I dealt with this issue for 15+ years as an administrator (in several specialties) and what we did worked as follows:

  • Employees could either have extra days off before or after the holiday, but not both, i.e. at Thanksgiving – Mon-Wed before or Mon – ? after but they could not be out the Wednesday before and the Monday after, as that deprived someone else from having an extended holiday weekend.
  • They could either take extra days at Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years but not two of them and these were basically rotated from one year to the next, assuming they stayed that long, which meant that the person with seniority did get to move into the more favored holiday position, but then had to rotate the next year to another holiday week, and which week is favored is individual so this usually worked out.
  • So there were basically 5 weeks of holiday time at Thanksgiving and Christmas; The weeks before and after Thanksgiving and the week before, the week between and the week after New Year.  With 5 possible weeks of holiday time, and more than one department, it was possible to give everyone at least one of those weeks off – if they had the time and wanted to use it.
  • No unpaid time was allowed.  If they had not saved the time off to have it available, they were the last in line to get the time off.
  • While there was no seniority policy, those who had not been there a year did have last priority in selecting time.
  • Each department manager (clinical, front desk, lab, etc.) had to meet with the staff several months in advance to figure out who wanted what time and submit it for approval so people had time to make travel arrangements.  Then whatever was left over was available for changes, if needed.
  • We generally tried to do something special during the week between Christmas and New Year for those who worked it to make it feel more special.
  • This required coordination and negotiation within department areas but was seen by most as fair, except the most senior people who thought they should get first priority every year. 

Ginger Kelley, Jacksonville, FL 


I use the method of whoever puts in first gets it.  This encourages staff to think ahead which is helpful to me with regard for planning purposes.  In addition, I do not allow more than one that has the same responsibilities off at the same time.  Once again this encourages staff to think ahead and put in their time off request.

Beth Onthank, Laconia, NH 



Comments are closed.