Connect with us

How Would You Handle This Practice’s Serious Holiday PTO Problem?

More than half the staff has requested time off during the busy season!




ALL EMPLOYEES OF Sunset Eye Care gathered in the break room for the monthly staff meeting. Owners Dr. Hart and Dr. Allen took turns going over items on the agenda, and eventually arrived at the closing point; “We realize it’s only October, but the holiday season and end-of-year rush is right around the corner.” Dr. Allen continued, “As you all know, this is the busiest time of year for us and we open up our schedule a bit to accommodate the rise in demand before the benefit calendar year ends.”


Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved and should not be confused with real people or places. Responses are peer-sourced opinions and are not a substitute for professional legal advice. Please contact your attorney if you have any questions about an employee or customer situation in your own business.


Carissa Dunphy has been working in private practice optometry since 2008 and is the founder of Optician Now ( Follow Carissa on Instagram and Facebook at @opticiannow.

Dr. Hart added, “While we understand that the increased workload can be stressful and that you may also want to enjoy more time with your families, we encourage you all to try your best to power through while limiting your PTO requests during this period.”

Later that week, Dr. Hart approached Dr. Allen, “I thought our last staff meeting went well since no one had questions about taking time off during our busy season—likely because nearly all of our employees have worked here for years and know how busy we get at the end of the year.” Dr. Hart countered wryly, “Then you’ll be shocked to hear seven of our 10 employees and the associate doctor have all requested time off between mid-November through the end of the year.”

“Wow. I don’t even know what to say,” Dr. Allen replied, “I know we both care about our employees and their wellbeing, but I am genuinely surprised at this. Is this really too much to ask of them?”

“We were trying to do the right thing and plan ahead, yet I feel like it bit us in the butt — but if we didn’t bring it up in advance, people may have just called in sick,” Dr. Hart added.

“So they did exactly what we kindly asked them to avoid?” Dr. Allen replied.


“Lindsey wants five days off to drive to see family. Travis would like four various days off to go to holiday events. Sandy requested seven days off to fly out of town to see family. Dr. Spring would like 10 days off to fly to some tropical island because it’s so depressing here during the winter.” Dr. Hart asked, “Shall I continue?”

“No, no need. We’re basically left with three guaranteed employees during the busiest time of year,” Dr. Allen deduced.

Dr. Hart responded, “I don’t know how to address this with each or all of them… If we allow all of the requests then we can’t operate on the level needed to see all of the patients who need to be seen. Yet, if we deny one, or some, or all of the requests, they may call in anyways… and if they don’t call in they will definitely be angry at us and be less productive during this time where high function is needed.” “We surely cannot have it happen every year.” Dr. Allen continued, “We have to figure out a solution that will establish a precedent.”

The Big Questions

  • What is your established policy on staff’s holiday or busy season PTO requests? How is that communicated to employees?
  • How do you prioritize time off requests when multiple staff members ask for the same days off?
  • What advice would you give to a manager or owner who finds themselves in this position?


Mark P.
Orlando, FL

Our employee handbook discusses holidays and PTO in detail. If an employee has a question that cannot be answered from the handbook then they would ask the office manager.

We prioritize time-off requests based upon how long the employee has been with the company, what date they requested the time off (the earlier the better), and finally, did they take the same time off last year or the year before?

Having all this information in the employee handbook is extremely important. If a conflict arises then we would sit down and discuss a fair resolution with the employee(s).

Pablo M.
Atlanta, GA

We have a policy of no PTO from the week after the Thanksgiving holiday until after the 1st of the following year (Christmas is of course a day off, and we may add a day before or after based upon what day of the week Christmas Day lands on). After that, seniority and the needs of the practice follow in order to determine how we allow people to take days off. This was made very clear to me when I joined the practice, so I knew from the very beginning that asking for days off during that period was not going to work. This policy has to be made public well in advance and explained ad nauseam — with staff reminded every so often to make sure it stays fresh in the minds of everybody — and reiterated whenever a new employee comes on board.

Heather H.
Denver, CO

Normalize hiring temporary staff! Come up with a culture guide and workflow guide for your office so that the fill-in knows exactly how your office navigates to make this process easy. Also, be sure to have a schedule swap option on your scheduling app or on your bulletin board.

Allison T.
Lubbock, TX

To just about any normal person, no job is more important than family. Telling staff to limit, not take time off, or denying PTO during the holidays is a sure way to risk losing a valuable employee. Luckily, our office is closed the day before, day of, and after a holiday. Christmas is nearly a week off. All of the staff gets a much-needed break and time with loved ones. Tough call for these doctors in this scenario, but I am appreciative it is not even a question for the doctor I work for.

Kelsey B.
Winston-Salem, NC

We have such a small team that sometimes PTO can be difficult, especially around the holidays. Luckily for us, the team is very close and works as much as possible to cover for each other.
We don’t have a need for a specific holiday PTO policy, but if we ever did and a situation arose where multiple people wanted the same time off, we would probably implement a limit on days off during the last three months of the year and time off would be given on a first come, first served basis. That seems like the only fair way to go about it. Family time should always be prioritized by every employee and every employer. Bottom line is, take care of your people and they’ll take care of you.


We had that situation for years and managed to survive by trying to alternate the holidays for different employees or have only two at the most that could do Christmas. We had one go a few days before the holiday and one right at the holiday and past it, so at least two people had Christmas and year-end time off.

But as things started changing in the office and more people were unhappy with this arrangement the doctor decided to close for the week of Christmas and you knew that you would have that time off and everyone came back to work to push through the last week of the year. If we had to stay late a few nights or come early a few mornings we did not care, as we all understood the cost involved for the practice shutting down. It eliminated more problems than it caused and after a couple years the patients adjusted to the fact that we would be closed and most come in late October and early November.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. eyecare business serving the public, you’re invited to join the INVISION Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute quiz a month, you can get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting eyecare professionals. Good deal, right? Sign up here.



The Best Overall Progressive Lens, Now Powered by AI

Engineered with Behavioral Artificial Intelligence and utilizing new XR-motion™ technology, Varilux XR series goes beyond prescription and eye physiology to consider the patient’s visual behavior and design a progressive lens that respects how
their eyes naturally move.

Varilux XR series comes in two versions, Varilux® XR design and Varilux® XR track. The Varilux XR track lens provides an additional level of personalization by incorporating the exclusive Near Vision Behavior Measurement, providing up to 25% more near vision width3 according to the patient’s need, so patients get the highest level of customization.

Discover Varilux XR series and enjoy instantly sharp vision in motion4 and seamless transitions from near to far.

For more information, visit here.

Promoted Headlines





Get the most important news and business ideas for eyecare professionals every weekday from INVISION.



Most Popular