How much time off should veterinarians get? If you’re an employed veterinary associate, how much total time off should the employer give you each year? First, it will be in the employment contract how much time off you get. And time off has four components. One is vacation, two would be sick days, three would be continuing education, and four, federal holidays. Those four things make up the total time off. There are two types of systems for vacation. You have a pure PTO system, so PTO is paid time off. And I guess the corporate-owned practices, the big conglomerates that are gobbling up all the veterinary-owned practices. Lately, they’re more likely to use a pure PTO system.
Pure PTO (Paid Time Off) system
In a pure PTO system, the vet would have one bucket of time off. And they can do whatever they want with that time off. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sick day, a holiday, or whatever. It’s coming out of that bucket if they’re not in the office for that day. In a system like that, the vet would usually accrue a certain amount per pay period, assuming they’ve accrued enough. They can use it. One tip: no vet should accept an accrual system. It should be. This is how much time off you get per year and from the beginning of the year. Having to accrue time off is just rare for an advanced-level healthcare provider. You don’t want to accept an accrual system. It should just be, you get what you get. Now, how much is a normal amount?
Veterinarian Work Leave Data
Most vets will take 10 to 15 days of vacation. It’ll be 3 to 5 days for sick leave. Now, sick days are sometimes state-dependent. Many states have laws stating if you are a full-time employee, you’re then allowed this many days of sick time off yearly. Continuing education is somewhere between 3 to 5 days as well. Lastly, for the federal holidays, most places observe six to seven. Let’s add them up. Say you got ten vacation days, three sick days, and seven federal holidays, that’s 20. Continuing education, another 3, which gets you to 23 total days off. That’s okay.
It should be somewhere between 20 to 30 days of total time off. You’re not going to see more, or at least it’s improbable you’d see more than that in any veterinary contract. If you’re only getting 15 days of total time off, that’s a big red flag. Why is that a red flag if you’re getting a meager amount?
Some employers don’t appreciate a work-life balance or expect the vet to always be in the office. They’re usually more difficult to work with or don’t appreciate the need for a little time off. If they only offer a small amount, that’s a job you should probably move on from. Veterinary associates should look for opportunities to take breaks for themselves and not just work.
One benefit of these bigger corporate-owned practices is the standardized amount of time off they provide. And it’s usually good. I find that kind of egregious time off is usually for the smaller veterinary-owned practices. It’s possible, maybe they don’t understand what the industry standard is. Perhaps it’s likely they just don’t want to give that much time off. But you’ll usually receive a decent amount of time off if you’re worth a corporate-owned practice.
Veterinarians Can Negotiate Taking Longer Vacation
So, what can you negotiate? Well, the vacation is what you want to focus on. It depends if it’s a pure PTO system or it’s segmented. But if you’re going to focus on one thing and like, let’s say you want five more days. Then you want five more vacation days. You don’t want to add five continuing education days because you can do what you want with a vacation day.
Whereas if it’s a continuing education day, you must do continuing education. Some people want flexibility. And then as far as holidays go, that is what it is. There’s not going to be any negotiation for holidays. Maybe if you’re in a veterinary specialty when you’re on call, that’s one thing you need to think about. Okay, you’re giving me 20 days, including these seven federal holidays. But I’m going to be on call for three of them. Will I receive an additional three days of time off that way? It equals out.
Most places would do it that way, but it won’t be in the contract. Make sure and talk to the employer about, if I am on call and I must come in on these days. Will I get makeup days after the fact? That’s something to keep in mind if you’re in a veterinary specialty that’s on call. If you’re just a general vet who’s never on call, that’s not something you need to worry about.
In summary, somewhere between 20 to 30 days would be a standard time off for a veterinary associate. You can negotiate whether the employer is willing to do that or not. I don’t know. But it’s certainly something that you don’t want to, I guess, acquire the short end on one.
Another consideration I forgot to mention. If you are in a pure production employment relationship, meaning, especially in the veterinary industry, they use ProSal a lot. And that means you receive a percentage of the practice’s collections. The more time off you take, the less money you’re going to make. If you’re just on a straight-based salary, take as much downtime as you want that won’t affect your compensation. If you’re on the productivity model where it’s in the veterinary industry, it’s almost always based upon net-collections. The fewer hours you work, the less you’re going to make. There is a balance in between, alright, if I want to make this much money, I can’t take 30 days off. Versus what your target is as far as what you want to make per year. That’s one consideration for you.
Other Blogs of Interest
- Veterinarian Contract Red Flags
- How to Negotiate a Veterinary Associate Contract: Vet Employment Contract Negotiations
- Veterinary Professional Contract Benefits | Veterinary Benefit Agreement
How Long are Most Veterinarian Contracts?
How long are most veterinary associate contracts? First, you need to know two things to determine the average length of a contract. One is how to terminate the agreement, and two, does the contract automatically renew? Let’s kind of hit all of those.
There’s usually an initial term to the contract. An initial term means the length of the contract before it ends. Or, if there’s a language, it could automatically renew for successive terms after the initial period ends. The average length for an initial term is somewhere between two to three years. And so, in most contracts, after that two or three-year period ends. As I said before, there’d be language that states it automatically renews for one-year terms after that. And then it just continuously renews unless terminated by the veterinary associate. That’s a normal amount of time. If you have a five-year contract, it’s abnormal.
Employee or Employer Can Terminate Employment Agreements
Now, does it ultimately matter? Not really, because of this: every contract will have ways that the vet or the employer can terminate the agreement. There will be a without-cause termination clause. And this means either party can terminate agreements at any time with a certain amount of notice to the other.
You could be one month into your job. You hate it, maybe especially lately, the lack of staffing makes your working hours impossible. Or perhaps you’re being paid on pure productivity, and the volume is terrible. And you’re like, this is not for me. In the contract, if you have without-cause termination, usually, it’s somewhere between 30 to 90 days for most veterinary associates. And so, you would say, I’m giving you my notice, and then, let’s say it’s a 60-day time. You’d work out those 60 days, and you could leave at the end of the 60 days. If you can terminate the contract at any time and reason, the contract length doesn’t matter in some ways.
If you had a five-year term but could terminate the contract with 60 days’ notice, it’s only a 60-day contract. You can think of it that way. Now, when is a good time to renegotiate the agreements? Well, usually, it would be at the end of whatever year period. Let’s say you’re just on a straight-based salary. You may approach the employer, and say, I’ve been this productive, and I believe I deserve an increase to this amount. Some are concerned that if it just automatically renews forever, the job will stick them with the same salary forever.
Veterinarians Can Negotiate their Employment Agreements
You can renegotiate at any moment. Go to the employer and say, look, I’m generating $600,000 a year, and only making a hundred thousand. I want an increase. For most veterinary associates, it would be between 18 to 22% of their net-collections. In that scenario, you’ll say, if you don’t raise my salary, I’m going to give you notice and then leave. And obviously, they may call your bluff if you’re not willing to leave. But that’s a good stopping point to say to them, look, I’m worth more than what. And it’s time to renegotiate.
The average contract length doesn’t matter if you can terminate the contract at any point. Is there one length that’s better than another? Not really, not taking that into account. Now, there is one other type of length of term, it’s called an evergreen contract. And this is being used more and more lately for whatever reason. There is no initial term set. So the contract will continue forever until one of the parties terminates agreements per the contract terms. Once again, that’s fine if you can terminate the contract without-cause at any point. If it’s a contract that goes on forever still is just if the notice period is required. So, that’s a little primer on the average length of a veterinary employee contract agreement.
Veterinary Professional Practice Benefits
Veterinary associates are in high demand. People want to do everything within their power to care for pets so near and dear to their hearts. And the skills that veterinarians bring to the table are highly prized. The supply of veterinary associates is somewhat lacking compared to the overall demand in the market at this time. This meant employers had to look at ways to sweeten the deal to obtain as many vets as possible.
Why Employers Require a Contract for Veterinarians
A lot of jobs in any business or industry require a potential employee to sign an employment contract. One that lays out the foundation and terms of employment. And the benefits of coming to work at a specific facility. Often, they do this as means of encouraging people to accept a particular job offer they might not have otherwise. When benefits are laid on the table, it’s easier for people to see why they should work for a specific employer. One they consider working for.
Employers will always ask veterinarians to sign a contract of employment before they can begin their work. After all, the business veterinarians do is often so delicate and sensitive that no aspect of it can be compromised. The employer needs to know what they are getting for their business when they offer employment to a veterinary associate. On the plus side for incoming vets. They can see the benefits they’ll receive all laid out in a way that makes it clear what to expect.
Benefits of Veterinarian Contracts
Employment agreement benefits include the fact that they can provide some much-needed stability to veterinarians. Many veterinary contracts are designed to run for 12 months or longer. Thus, veterinarians can feel confident that they will be employed at a specific facility for at least a year. That is, if they don’t do anything egregious, that will nullify the contract. We’d also explore some additional upsides to veterinarian contracts to clarify why these documents are so important to many.
Professional Liability Insurance
No matter how talented someone is at their job, there is always a risk that something terrible could go wrong. Veterinary Practice News explains why vets are strongly encouraged to purchase protection that’ll keep them and their veterinary practice safe:
As claims become more common and damages rise, defending against malpractice claims becomes more expensive and necessary for veterinary practices. Like many professionals, veterinarians commonly purchase professional liability (malpractice) insurance to guard against the expense of defending against such claims. If an employer can add professional liability insurance as a benefit to the contract, this is all upside for \veterinarians. It is a total relief. It means they may not have to pay for this insurance out of their pocket. Unless they want supplemental coverage beyond what the employer provides.
Clients are often very particular about how their pets are taken care of. They may feel that they have a claim against you if something goes wrong with their pet’s care. And in the business of medicine, events related to malpractice can have a long damaging effect on the vet’s career. That’s why all vets considering a new employment offer should speak with a veterinary contract lawyer. In order to review the paperwork, the employer asked them to sign. And to ensure it includes extensive liability insurance protections.
Everyone must think about their financial future as they are still actively working. Preparing for the fact that you won’t be able to work as many hours as you do now someday is a wise practice. Simply because it is the reality of the situation. It would help if you prepared for the day when you are past the age of working. And need to rely on the savings you have accumulated throughout your working life. A 401(k) plan for veterinarians should be automatic in any agreements they sign. This is to say, what any veterinarians thinking about signing up for a job with a given employer should recognize. The employer needs to offer a 401(k) plan for the vet to consider it.
PTO and Sick Days
Veterinary associates considering new work may want to give special consideration to personal time off (PTO) and sick days allotted. The reason? Because they must have the opportunity to establish some work/life balance in their overall health and existence.
A burnout crisis is sweeping through the practice at this time as the number of clients continues to grow. Many vets must work far more hours under far more challenging conditions than they usually would. Given all this, it’s abundantly clear that vets need to catch some breaks for their mental and physical health. And be allowed to recover from the hours of onslaught that is their job. When looking over contracts, veterinarians should see how their time off breaks down into different categories, such as:
- Sick days
- Vacation days
- Personal time off (PTO)
- Flex time
Employers have different definitions for how they look at the time provided to their employees to take care of their needs. Before signing employment or independent contractor agreements, it is crucial to understand what those definitions are.
Discounted or Free Services
It would be unusual for veterinarians not to have a pet (or two, or three!) of their own. Thus, it is a reasonable assumption that the vet may receive special discounts or even free services from their employer. They may not want to work on their pet for understandable reasons. But they may have the opportunity to receive veterinary health care from a co-worker who can help them out. Their employer should discount this service as part of the terms of their employment. This may seem like a small thing. But it makes a big difference in the lives of busy veterinarians with multiple pets that need taking care of. Getting a little break on those services can be the cherry on top.
Reach Out Today
Before you sign on to any professional veterinary offer, we would like to have the opportunity to discuss it with you. We intend to help you understand every element of your contract (including an analysis of your non-compete agreement). And if said contract makes sense for your needs. Please reach out to us. Let us know how we can start the process of helping you receive the assistance that you require.
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