September 18th, 2020

HR News

Is it COVID-19 or the Flu?

It’s probably safe to say that so far, 2020 has been a wild ride for the entire world. Every month seems to present a new surprise to wrap our heads around—and by the time we adjust to one crisis or disaster, the next one is here, giving us little time for preparation or prevention.

Luckily, we are already aware of one of the next big “surprises” of 2020: flu season. While it’s not really a surprise since it happens every year, it’s pretty certain that most of us are so distracted by everything else that we barely registered the looming influenza season.

One of the things to remember is that every fall/winter brings us a new version of the flu virus, bringing a fresh “plague” possibly running through the staff at your practice. While many people acknowledge the season by getting a flu shot, that’s usually the extent of preparation and prevention.

Despite Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations that you stay home if you have flu-like symptoms, most of us muster up the energy to still come in to work so we don’t leave our co-workers high and dry. Now thanks to the novel coronavirus pandemic, if you even cough or sneeze a few times in the workplace, you’ll likely be asked to go home by management. So, what does this mean for the impending flu season and your practice?

Influenza vs. COVID-19: Similarities and Differences

Both COVID-19 and influenza viruses most commonly impact the upper respiratory system, so many of the symptoms are the same—but there are some differences. Check out these charts created based on information from the CDC:

Signs and Symptoms

Signs/ SymptomsCOVID-19Flu
Fever or feeling feverish/chills
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Fatigue (tiredness)
Sore throat
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle pain or body aches
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
Change in or loss of taste or smell 

How Soon Symptoms Appear After Exposure and Infection

Time window for onset of symptoms2 to 14 days, on average symptoms develop after 5 days post infection1 to 4 days post infection

How Long Someone Can Spread the Virus

How Long Someone Can Spread the Virus  How long someone can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 is still under investigation.   It’s possible for people to spread the virus for about 2 days before experiencing signs or symptoms and remain contagious for at least 10 days after signs or symptoms first appeared.   If someone is asymptomatic or their symptoms go away, it’s possible to remain contagious for at least 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19.    Most people with flu are contagious for about 1 day before they show symptoms.   Older children and adults with flu appear to be most contagious during the initial 3-4 days of their illness but many remain contagious for about 7 days.   Infants and people with weakened immune systems can be contagious for even longer.    

So What Should I Do As An Employer?

Since the pandemic arrived in the United States, workplaces nationwide have had to adjust their philosophies when it concerns sick employees coming to work. Most practices have put policies in place that require employees to stay home if they have any symptoms that could be related to COVID-19.

But based on the charts above, you’re probably wondering how you’re going to know if it’s the flu or COVID-19. Indeed, how do you handle anyone who is symptomatic during flu season?

Assume It’s COVID-19 And Hope It’s the Flu

The bottom line is that there’s really no need to have a separate policy for how to handle illness in the practice during flu season. We suggest you treat all symptoms that could possibly be either illness exactly the same—just ensure your policy addresses:

  • How the practice will handle employees with symptoms
  • How the practice will handle employees with sick family members at home
  • How the practice will handle employees that have been exposed to someone who is COVID-19 positive
  • Specifically how and when an employee can return back to work

It is also important to note that per the CDC, people can have both influenza and COVID-19 at the same time. Since this double whammy is possible, you might want to consider sticking to the CDC’s recommendations for ending home isolation based on COVID-related symptoms.

Those guidelines currently are:

  • Fever-free for 24 hours without the aid of medication
  • 10 days since the onset of symptoms
  • All other symptoms have improved

You should also remind employees of what paid and unpaid leave they have available to them if they are ill and/or suffering from COVID-related symptoms. Keep in mind that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act are still in effect until December 31, 2020. 

Double Down on Sanitation Protocols

We’ve heard from a lot of clients that one upside of this pandemic is that their hospitals have never been cleaner. We recommend continuing that focus during flu season!

Ensure that all high touch surfaces are being properly cleaned and disinfected multiple times a day in accordance with CDC recommendations. Ensure all employees have access to resources to allow them to regularly wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and water or use alcohol-base hand sanitizer.

Testing and Vaccinations: You’ve Got Options

Luckily, there is a test for both COVID-19 and the flu, so an employee can seek medical attention to determine which virus is causing their symptoms. If an employee gets tested for both the flu and COVID-19 and discloses those results to their manager, management could consider allowing the employee to come back sooner than the CDC’s 10-day recommendation for COVID-19 isolation.

According to research, individuals impacted by the flu are most contagious within three to four days of the onset of symptoms. However, they can still transmit the virus for up to seven days, so it could be argued that a sick employee should stay out of the practice for at least seven days after they become symptomatic.

Please note: we do not recommend that you require an employee to get tested for the flu or for COVID-19. In most states, if an employer makes a task a requirement of employment, that business could be financially responsible for any fees incurred for the test, any time spent to get the test, and in some cases, even the travel expenses to and from the testing facility. By making testing optional, employers should not be held financially responsible. We recognize that this is a fine line you will be dancing, so it’s imperative that you choose your words carefully when discussing testing.

Speaking of optional tasks that are probably a good idea: We suggest you ask your team to consider getting a flu shot this year. Have an all-staff meeting and discuss with your staff how the practice plans to continue to handle illness in the practice, as well as how they can do their part to prevent the spread of influenza by getting vaccinated before November. Again, it’s important to note that we do not recommend making the vaccination a requirement.

Give Your Team A Boost

There are many scientific studies that link stress to a compromised immune system. Right now, everyone is stressed—most veterinary hospitals are busier than ever, and teams are often shorthanded because they have someone out sick. We suggest looking for ways to help your team “reset their batteries” and hopefully give their immune system a boost prior to the start of flu season. Some ideas include:

  • Consider giving each employee a “Me Holiday”. This entails coordinating an additional paid day off for each employee during a certain time frame. Essentially, it’s one extra PTO day you’re adding on to this benefits year, but you choose when they get to take this paid day off. We suggest having only one or two people out at a time so the rest of the team doesn’t feel team doesn’t feel understaffed, defeating the purpose of lowering stress levels. This option definitely takes some planning but will ultimately pay off with employees who feel rested and appreciated.
  • If coordinating a day off for each person isn’t possible, consider closing down the practice for one day to give the whole team a break. We know, we know—losing a full day of revenue sounds like crazy talk, but hear us out. Clients will understand and appreciate that you are going the extra mile to take care of your staff so they can get reenergized. The staff will also appreciate the day, boosting morale. Consider writing the question “What are you going to do with your extra day off?” on one of your white boards and letting the team share fun ideas. It’s a great distraction from everything else going on in the world! You’ll hopefully be compensated for lost revenue by a boost in productivity and a mentally and physically healthier staff. 
  • If the business cannot afford to give everyone a day off or shut down the practice for a day, consider finding alternate ways during the day to help the team pause. Consider blocking off an hour just before lunch for everyone to do an online yoga class or a mindfulness meditation. You and the team could take the time to pause the day and have a socially distant cup of coffee together and talk about life. Laughter and connecting on a deeper level are always a great way to give your battery a quick little charge.  

We know this added complication of flu season is probably one of the last things you want to think about right now, but our hope is that these suggestions can help you feel better prepared for this next 2020 hurdle. Control what you can control within your hospital. While you may not be able to stop the spread of these viruses, you can help your team focus on their well-being, which ultimately makes for a much healthier practice.

August 24th, 2020

HR News

Oregon OSHA Proposed Plan for Addressing COVID-19 Risks Within the Workplace

On August 17, 2020 Oregon OSHA released their proposed plan for addressing COVID-19 risks within the workplace. This ruling is currently still in the draft phase and is open for public comments until August 31, 2020. The projected timeline for these temporary rules would be from September 14, 2020 through March 13, 2021 (180 days). Most of the proposed plan outlines precautions that most veterinary hospitals are already taking at this time, so this hopefully will not be too much of a burden on you and your practice.

All Workplaces Requirements

The Oregon OSHA’s temporary rule addressing COVID-19 draft currently outlines the following requirements for all workplaces in the state:

  1. Social Distancing (Social distance whenever possible. Barriers may need to be installed)
    1. All employers must ensure social distancing of 6-feet between individuals. If an employer can demonstrate that social distancing cannot be done practically, the employer must ensure that face coverings are worn and that as much distance as practical is maintained.
    1. The 6-foot social distancing measure can also be met by having an impermeable barrier that creates a “droplet buffer” of at least 6-feet in distance as measured between the mouths of the affected individuals.
    1. The rules go on to define that whenever employees are transported in a motor vehicle for work purposes, the center points of the seats of any passengers not part of the same household must be separated by at least 3-feet.

Note: How we are interpreting this portion of the rules is that you can meet the 6-foot social distancing portion by either spacing your employees within the workplace out by 6’ or by installing impermeable barriers. If neither options are feasible then employees must wear face coverings and social distance as far as possible when feasible. We are hoping they will clarify this more in the final draft.

  • Face Coverings (Wear face coverings at all times while in the workplace)
    • The employer must ensure that everyone in the workplace or other premises subject to the employer’s control wears face coverings (masks, cloth coverings, or face shields) in the following scenarios:
      • whenever the 6-foot distancing requirement cannot be consistently assured,
      • whenever customers, vendors, or other visitors are present,
      • when work requires employees to be within 6-feet of one or more individuals for more than 5 minutes either in a singular instance or in all cases when work requires such contact more than 30-minutes total in the course of a single working day,
      • whenever 6-foot distancing cannot be reliably maintained between individuals (for example, face coverings must be worn in corridors, restrooms, elevators, and stairwells),
      • whenever employees are transported in a motor vehicle for work purposes all individuals in the vehicle must wear face coverings, regardless of the distance involved, unless all individuals in the vehicle are members of the same household

  • Sanitation (Routinely clean all high touch surfaces multiple times a day)
    • All employers must ensure that all high-contact surfaces used by multiple employees (door handles, telephones, cash registers, computers, drinking fountains, seatbelts, etc.) are thoroughly cleaned at the beginning of each shift.
    • All shared equipment and high-touch surfaces must be cleaned before use by another employee.
    • The employer must ensure that employees have the supplies necessary and are able to use proper hand hygiene before and after using shared equipment or tools and before eating, drinking, applying cosmetics, or smoking.
  • Social Distancing Officer (Identify someone for role)
    • Employers with at least 25 employees at any time must designate one or more employees who will be responsible to assist the employer in identifying appropriate social distancing, proper face covering use, and sanitation measures and ensure such policies and procedures are implemented.
  • Employee Information & Training (Post poster, talk about policies, ensure team is trained)
    • Employers must provide information and training to their employees:
      • Employers must post the “COVID-19 Hazards Poster,” which will be provided by Oregon OSHA.
      • Employers must notify their employees about the social distancing requirements and how they will be implemented in the workplace, and employers must provide an opportunity for employee feedback about those practices (through the Social Distancing Officer and through either the Safety Committee, an interactive safety meeting, or both). Such notification must be conducted in a manner and language understood by the affected workers.
      • Employers must provide an explanation of the employer’s policies and procedures for employees to report signs or symptoms of COVID-19. Such explanations must be conducted in a manner and language understood by the affected workers.
  • Medical Removal (Allow employees to take FFCRA Leave or OR Paid Sick Leave)
    • Employers will also be required to address the medical removal of employees with symptoms, undergoing testing, or otherwise requiring isolation:
      • Employers must provide information about any paid leave to which employees would be entitled by company policy as well as under the federal Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA).
      • Whenever a medical provider or public health official recommends isolation or quarantine, the worker(s) must be reassigned to duties that do not involve in-person contact. Such reassignment must continue until the need no longer exists, based on guidance from the medical provider or involved public health officials.
        • To the degree reassignment is not possible, the employer must allow workers to use leave to which they are entitled under the FFCRA. If the employer has previously opted out of the paid sick leave provisions of the FFCRA, then the employer must provide up to two weeks of paid reassignment leave in addition to whatever benefits to which the worker would otherwise be entitled.
          • Exception: Employers otherwise required to provide paid reassignment leave who experienced a reduction of more than 20 percent in gross revenue between the 2nd calendar quarter of 2019 and the 2nd calendar quarter of 2020 are not required to provide additional paid leave.
      • Employees who are reassigned for medical removal reasons are entitled to return to their previous job duties without any adverse action as a result of the medical removal.

Workplaces at Heightened Risk

In addition to the requirements for all workplaces, Oregon OSHA’s proposal also goes on to provide guidelines for “Workplaces at Heightened Risk.” At this time, the draft does not clearly define whether the veterinary industry would fall into this category or not. Currently the document defines a “Heightened Risk Workplace” as: any job duty or work operation that requires an employee to be within 6-feet of another individual for longer than 15 minutes and that includes the direct touching of the individual with the employee’s hands or by the use of instruments or tools.

Since our industry regularly has scenarios of individuals being in close proximities of each other for extended periods of time, it could be argued that veterinary hospitals could fall in the “Workplace at Heightened Risk” category. If Oregon OSHA classifies veterinary hospitals as such, these additional rules would apply:

  1. Conduct an Exposure Risk Assessment (Conduct an assessment created by OR OSHA)
    1. Each employer covered by this subsection must conduct a COVID-19 exposure risk assessment, without regard to the use of personal protective equipment or face coverings, that considers 10+ risk elements.
  2. Document Exposure Risk Assessment in Writing (Have documentation ready in case of audit)
    1. Each employer covered by the subsection of this rule must document their exposure risk assessment in writing and include the employee’s information conducting the assessment and some information about the jobs that will be potentially impacted. By COVID-19.
  3. Enhanced Employee Information and Training (Provide training from an expert)
    1. In addition to the training requirements for all workplaces of this rule, enhanced employee training must include the following provisions:
      1. The training is overseen or conducted by a person knowledgeable in the covered subject matter as it relates to the workers’ workplace, service, or job operations;
      1. The training material is appropriate in content and vocabulary to the education, literacy, and language of the affected workers; and
      1. Provide an opportunity for interactive questions and answers with a person knowledgeable in the program’s subject matter and basic epidemiology as it relates to the workplace, service, or operations.
  4. Enhanced Sanitation (Setup a cleaning schedule)
    1. In addition to those sanitation measures required in all workplaces under this rule, each employer covered by this subsection must develop and implement an appropriate schedule for routine cleaning and decontamination of contaminated materials between each customer and between each employee shift change.

As previously mentioned, this proposal is still set as a draft and is not official yet. Since it is a draft the proposal could stay as is, could have slight adjustments made to it, or could be completely overhauled prior to its expected implementation date of September 14, 2020. Oregon OSHA should finalize this proposal in the first two weeks of September, and will hopefully give businesses a reasonable amount of time to comply. Once we have the finalized requirements, we will update this information for you.

April 27th, 2020

HR News

Welcome Back: How to Recall Furloughed Employees

Over the next few weeks, government ordinances related to COVID-19 will slowly begin to lift nationwide. Hopefully, this means your practice will be able to start getting back to something resembling “normal”, and you can start recalling your furloughed employees.

Here is a brief overview of how to conduct the recall process:

  1. Create your recall list. Some practices will be able to bring back all of their furloughed employees at the same time, but most practices will need to bring back furloughed employees in phases. If you are staggering the return of furloughed employees, you will need to choose a selection process for who you will bring back first. Just like when you started this process, you will want to ensure that your selection process is non-biased and consistent. Common selection processes would be:
  • first furloughed is the first to come back,
  • selected based off seniority with the practice, and
  • selected based on skillset.
  • Recall furloughed employees. OK, so you have your list together and now it’s time to recall them. Prepare your recall letter for each individual you will be recalling prior to contacting them. We have attached an example recall letter here for your reference.

Essentially when an employee is furloughed from a business, they are put on an unpaid leave from the practice, so just like any leave you will want to communicate key pieces to the employee in the recall letter, including:

  • an employment offer
  • a return to work date
  • terms of employment
  • any consistencies and changes in their role
  • benefits status
  • changes in policies and procedures since their furlough

We suggest first reaching out to the employee via phone when recalling them, and then following up with an email that has the recall offer letter attached for the employee to sign.

  • Put the employee back on the schedule. Once you have the employee’s signed recall letter of acceptance, it’s time to put the employee back on the schedule. Ensure that their manager is scheduled to meet with them the first hour of their shift to review the practice’s new safety protocols and any new policies and procedures that have been implemented during their leave. This would also be a good time for the employee to read any handbook addendums you may have created and have them sign these documents for their personnel file.
  • Schedule a time to check in with them during their first week. There are still many unknowns and uncertainties during this pandemic, so getting back to work may feel very weird for some. Be sure to make it a point for the employee’s supervisor to check in with each recalled employee and see how they are doing reacclimating to daily practice life.

What if my employee doesn’t want to come back yet or is still concerned about their safety?

It is understandable that some employees are not going to want to come back due to safety and/or health concerns. We suggest you speak with these individuals about their concerns and review with them the safety protocols that management has put into place. If the employee has exhausted all federal and state leaves available to them, including their federal leave time (FFCRA), it will be up to management as to whether they will approve for the employee to continue staying out on unpaid leave.

It is important to note that some states, like New Jersey, have put some guidelines in place as to how to handle employees who have refused to come back to work due to fear of gathering and choosing to self- distance. It is always important to keep in mind that if you approve unpaid leave for this one person, it should be an option for anyone else who has the same concerns and requests continued leave.

Finally, it’s important that management ensure all communication regarding furlough recalls is well documented in each employee’s personnel file.

April 14th, 2020

HR News

COVID-19 Human Resources & Training Forms

These forms have been handpicked and crafted by our Human Resources & Training team here at iVET360. Below you will find a number of customizable forms to help you keep track of FFCRA, scripts for team engagement, and much more. While these may not encompass all documentation you may need, these are by far the most requested and utilized:

Documentation Requirement EPSL EFMLA – Keeping track of employee use of the FFCRA will be crucial moving forward; here is a document to help with that

Notice of Reduction in Force Due to Coronavirus (1) If you have exhausted all your resources to maintain your headcount, this document can be used in your RIF to inform the team. If you are unsure if there are other options, please reach out to us!

Request for Unpaid Leave Due to Coronavirus PandemicDo you have an employee who urgently wants to stay at home due to COVID19, but does not meet any of the qualifying events? This document will help you keep documentation of unpaid leave. *Ensure you are comfortable allowing this accommodation to ANY member of your team*

To the TeamDo you have employees who are beginning to push back on staying open? This customizable script should help remind them WHY we do what we do and also reinforce how you are keeping them safe.

Cleaning SOP Staff MeetingWhen was the last time you went over how to clean and disinfect properly with your team? This document, when used in combination with our Hospital Cleaning/Inventory Management meeting agenda, will help get everyone up to speed and help minimize your risk of OSHA claims! (Download the Cleaning SOP Acknowledgment)

All-State Travel Permit NoticeIf your state has a stay at home order, it might be a good idea to have your employees have one of these completed forms with them when traveling to and from work.

Dear Clients and Family COVIDThis editable door posting will allow you to keep your clients informed if they happen to stop by without an appointment.

Sample Furlough NoticeIf you have exhausted all your resources to maintain your headcount, this document can be used in your Furlough notice to inform the team. If you are unsure if there are other options, please reach out to us!

April 8th, 2020

HR News

April 8th FFCRA Update

As we expected, the Department of Labor has released a large amount of information to further clarify and outline items in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The guidance documentation is extremely long and can be overwhelming to read. As our team has been reading through the guidance, we have found some key highlights that will likely apply to many animal hospitals currently determining who is eligible for FFCRA time.

Here are some that you should be considering as you make these determinations: 

  • “Seeking a diagnosis” or “told to stay home:” All this means is that the employee needs to tell the hospital the name of the doctor or the governing body issuing a quarantine order. They don’t necessarily need a note from the doctor like they would with typical FMLA. This means that your documentation for paid time towards tax credits should be much easier.
  • If you have asked an employee to stay home pending the test results of a family member, this employee is likely eligible for FFCRA Emergency Paid Sick Leave. If you pay them for this time, then it will count against the two weeks or 80 hours allowed by the law. This means that if, in the future, the same employee contracts COVID-19, you can pay them only for hours up to 80 when combined with what was paid when you asked them to take leave. 
  • “Current Employees” includes all employees, including those who were on leave when the FFCRA was passed
  • If your hospital laid off or otherwise terminated someone on or after March 1stthat person is still considered an eligible employee for FFCRA time. Specifically: the employee was laid off or otherwise terminated by the employer on or after March 1, 2020, and rehired or reemployed by the employer on or before December 31, 2020, provided that the employee had been on the employer’s payroll for 30 or more of the 60 calendar days prior to the date the employee was laid off or terminated. It appears that this relates more to the EFMLA than the EPSL. Based on current assessments of this terminology, this means you may owe back-pay to anyone you laid off or furloughedsince March 1, 2020 if you hire them back before the end of 2020. Keep in mind that this is a small price to pay for rehiring your valued team members.
  • Employers and employees can choose to “top off” their EFMLA pay, meaning they can choose to use saved PTO time to make up for the 1/3 of pay that they will be missing while on EFMLA. Employers may NOT force team members to take accrued PTO, any use of PTO time must be chosen by the employee.  
  • Employers should consider whether they are exempt on a case by case basis, NOT as a blanket “we, as a hospital, are exempt.” This also echoes our stance that an employer must be ready to defend themselves if they decide they are exempt, or if they don’t let some employees take paid leave because they think they are exempt. We are recommending all hospitals, with the possible exception of those with less than five employees, assume that all of their employees are eligible for FFCRA time. The costs of defending against claims can be overwhelming, and pay will be reimbursable through tax credits. 

Yes, this expansion does open up some potential for employees to abuse the system. Please understand that it is ultimately up to the employee when it comes to utilizing the FFCRA; if they choose to waste it now, there is no indication that there will be further sick leave provided before the end of the year. Our advice would be to allow those who qualify for the FFCRA to use it at their own discretion.

As this is a very fluid situation, information may change quickly, even within a few hours. Unfortunately, there are many sites that are providing inaccurate and even false information. We recommend you monitor reliable sources of information to ensure that you are up to date on facts that will affect your practice. These sites include:

We understand that this is a challenging time for you as leaders within your practice, please do not hesitate to reach out if you need any help navigating these rough seas; we are only a phone call or email away.

April 1st, 2020

HR News

Reducing Staff Costs to Weather the Storm

During these chaotic times, one of the tougher things you’ll have to manage is a reduction in staff costs. However, the difficult truth is that labor expenditures are the largest cost a hospital incurs—so effective management of these costs is vital for the long-term success of your practice. Adjusting staffing levels today puts your businesses in a stronger position so that you can increase hours and/or rehire staff once things start to normalize.

In the same way you add more staff to support revenue growth in the practice, you should also be considering reducing staff when revenue is slower, like during the current COVID-19 crisis. By basing staffing levels on the revenue being generated, you ensure your payroll margin (payroll costs as a percentage of revenue) doesn’t deviate and cause major profitability issues.

For example: if your hospital is down 30% in revenue from normal levels, you should consider reducing staff costs by 30%. The benchmark for payroll expenditures as a percentage of revenue is 38% (roughly 19% DVMs and 19% support staff). These are very large costs to the business, and as top-line revenue is impacted these numbers can dramatically grow if action isn’t taken as soon as possible.

Reduce Hours or Lay Off Staff?

We strongly recommend you explore all options before deciding to lay off employees. Reduction in hours is a starting point for reducing staff costs. Ask your team if anyone wants reduced hours or if the total hours needed in reduction is known, the team could collectively decide what hours to reduce to achieve the desired result.

If these options don’t yield results, then as a business owner or practice manager you will need to make hard decisions on who to reduce or potentially lay off. Assuming a decision has been made at the practice owner level that layoffs need to happen, employees may elect for a volunteered layoff. Please familiarize yourself with the differences in employee exits here.

Deciding which positions to lay off will be unique to the practice and how you maintain staffing levels. If you are scheduling support staff based on DVM days, DVM day reduction should be reflected in support staff reductions. If you know you are overstaffed today in a certain position and revenue is negatively affected, now would be a good time to lessen the capacity of that position and lay off employees in that department.

 DVM Compensation

The other part of the equation for total staff costs is DVM pay. If your providers are set up on a production-based salary, slowdown in top-line revenue is somewhat mirrored in DVM production pay (if they aren’t making production, you’ll just pay out production above base pay). This isn’t always the case, so it’s just as important to monitor DVM days in the same way you monitor support staff levels.

Similar options for a collective decision about reductions exist with DVM days—you can ask if your doctors want to do less days. We would recommend a temporary reduction in base salary to reflect less days worked, but you can still maintain the production side of pay to continue to incentivize revenue production on the days they are working. Given how challenging it is to hire DVMs these days, we would advise that you do your best to opt for DVM pay reductions over DVM layoffs.

March 25th, 2020

HR News

FDA Suspends Requirments for Veterinary Telemedicine

The FDA has announced it will temporarily suspend portions of the federal veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) requirements in order to make it easier for vets to adopt telemedicine during the COVD-19 crisis.

Continue Reading >

March 25th, 2020

HR News

COVID-19 & Your Team: FMLA Leave Expansion and Emergency Paid Sick Leave Policy


To comply with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and to assist employees affected by the COVID-19 outbreak with job-protected leave and emergency paid sick leave. This policy will be in effect from April 2, 2020, until December 31, 2020. Our existing leave policy still applies to all other reasons for leave outside of this policy.

Expanded FMLA Leave

Employee Eligibility

All employees who have been employed with [Company Name] for at least 30 days.

Reason for Leave

Eligible employees who are unable to work (or telework) due to a need to care for their child when the school or place of care has been closed, or the regular childcare provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency with respect to COVID-19.

“Child”  means a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis, who is-

(A) under 18 years of age; or

(B) 18 years of age or older and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability.

“Childcare provider” means a provider who receives compensation for providing childcare services on a regular basis, including:

  • a center-based childcare provider
  • a group home childcare provider
  • a family childcare provider (one individual who provides childcare services for fewer than 24 hours per day, as the sole caregiver, and in a private residence)
  • other licensed provider of childcare services for compensation
  • a childcare provider that is 18 years of age or older who provides childcare services to children who are either the grandchild, great grandchild, sibling (if such provider lives in a separate residence), niece, or nephew of such provider, at the direction of the parent.

“School” means an elementary or secondary school.

Duration of Leave

Employees will have up to 12 weeks of leave to use from April 2, 2020, through December 31, 2020, for the purposes stated above.

Pay During Leave

Leave will be unpaid for the first 10 days of leave; however, employees may use any accrued paid vacation, sick or personal leave during this time. The employee may also elect to use the paid leave provided under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, as further explained below. After the first 10 days, leave will be paid at two-thirds of an employee’s regular rate of pay for the number of hours the employee would otherwise be scheduled to work. Pay will not exceed $200 per day and $10,000 in total. Any unused portion of this pay will not carry over to the next year.

For employees with varying hours, one of two methods for computing the number of hours paid will be used:

  • The average number of hours that the employee was scheduled per day over the 6-month period ending on the date on which the employee takes leave, including hours for which the employee took leave of any type. Or,
  • If the employee has worked less than 6 months, the expected number of hours to be scheduled per day at the time of hire.

Employee Status and Benefits During Leave

While an employee is on leave, the company will continue the employee’s health benefits during the leave period at the same level and under the same conditions as if the employee had continued to work. While on paid leave, the employer will continue to make payroll deductions to collect the employee’s share of the premium. During any unpaid portions of leave, the employee must continue to make this payment.

If the employee contributes to a life insurance or disability plan, the employer will continue making payroll deductions while the employee is on paid leave. During any portion of unpaid leave, the employee may request continuation of such benefits and pay his or her portion of the premiums, or the employer may elect to maintain such benefits during the leave and pay the employee’s share of the premium payments. If the employee does not continue these payments, the employer may discontinue coverage during the leave. If the employer maintains coverage, the employer may recover the costs incurred for paying the employee’s share of any premiums, whether or not the employee returns to work.

Procedure for Requesting Leave

All employees requesting FMLA leave must provide written notice, where possible, of the need for leave to their manager as soon as practicable. Verbal notice will otherwise be accepted until written notice can be provided. Within five business days after the employee has provided this notice, their manager will complete and provide the employee with any Department of Labor (DOL) required notices.

The notice the employee provides should include a brief statement as to the reason for leave, and if possible, the expected duration.

On a basis that does not discriminate against employees on FMLA leave, the company may require an employee on FMLA leave to report periodically on the employee’s status and intent to return to work.

Employee Status After Leave

Generally, an employee who takes FMLA leave will be able to return to the same position or a position with equivalent status, pay, benefits and other employment terms. If the position the employee held before leave started no longer exists due to economic conditions or operational changes that are made because of the public health emergency, and no equivalent position is available, the employee will not be returned to employment. However, for the period of one year after qualifying leave under this policy ends, [Company Name] will make reasonable efforts to contact the employee if an equivalent position becomes available.

Please contact the Practice Owner or Practice Manager with any questions.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave


All full- and part-time employees unable to work (or telework) due to one of the following reasons for leave:

  1. The employee is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID–19.
  2. The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19.
  3. The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  4. The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to either number 1 or 2 above.
  5. The employee is caring for his or her child if the school or place of care of the child has been closed, or the childcare provider of such child is unavailable, due to COVID–19 precautions.
  6. The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the secretary of health and human services in consultation with the secretary of the treasury and the secretary of labor.

“Child”  means a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis, who is-

(A) under 18 years of age; or

(B) 18 years of age or older and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability.

[Note: A definition for “individual” should be provided as soon as more guidance is available.]

Amount of Paid Sick Leave

All eligible full-time employees will have up to 80 hours of paid sick leave available to use for the qualifying reasons above. Eligible part-time employees are entitled to the number of hours worked, on average, over a two-week period.

For employees with varying hours, one of two methods for computing the number of hours paid will be used:

  • The average number of hours that the employee was scheduled per day over the 6-month period ending on the date on which the employee takes leave, including hours for which the employee took leave of any type. Or,
  • If the employee has worked less than 6 months, the expected number of hours to be scheduled per day at the time of hire.

Rate of Pay

Paid emergency sick leave will be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay, or minimum wage, whichever is greater, for leave taken for reasons 1-3 above.  Employees taking leave for reasons 4-6 will be compensated at two-thirds their regular rate of pay, or minimum wage, whichever is greater. Pay will not exceed:

  • $511 per day and $5,110 in total for leave taken for reasons 1-3 above;
  • $200 per day and $2,000 in total for leave taken for reasons 4-6 above.

Interaction with Other Paid Leave

The employee may use emergency paid sick leave under this policy before using any other accrued paid time off for the qualifying reasons stated above.

Employees on expanded FMLA leave under this policy may use emergency paid sick leave during the first 10 days of normally unpaid FMLA leave.

Procedure for Requesting Emergency Paid Sick Leave

Employees must notify their manager of the need and specific reason for leave under this policy. A form will be provided to all employees on the company intranet and/or in a manner accessible to all. Verbal notification will be accepted until practicable to provide written notice.

Once emergency paid sick leave has begun, the employee and his or her manager must determine reasonable procedures for the employee to report periodically on the employee’s status and intent to continue to receive paid sick time.


Paid emergency sick leave under this policy will not be provided beyond December 31, 2020. Any unused paid sick leave will not carry over to the next year or be paid out to employees.

Job Protections

No employee who appropriately utilizes emergency paid sick leave under this policy will be discharged, disciplined or discriminated against for work time missed due to this leave.

Please contact the Practice Owner or Practice Manager with any questions.

March 24th, 2020

HR News

Compassion Fatigue Awareness in Stressful Times

Right now, nearly all veterinary practice owners and managers are dealing with difficult and stressful decisions. We are working to keep our doors open and minimizing the effect of the COVID-19 virus on our teams. Unfortunately, many of us are having to lay off team members who have families to feed. This is heartbreaking for practice leaders, as many of us have come to love our teams as though they are family. These are difficult times, and it can be easy to become caught up in the emotions that come with these conversations.

You may have heard the term “compassion fatigue” in the past. Essentially, compassion fatigue is a type of secondary stress that occurs from an intense desire to help others. It is characterized by both emotional and physical exhaustion and a decrease in the ability to empathize. Unfortunately, these symptoms usually end up manifesting in ways outside of the primary stressor. This can mean arguing with friends and family, lacking patience for small transgressions, headaches, sleep disturbances, and even a lack of self-care. 

Compassion fatigue has been a hot topic in the veterinary field for some time now, but it is especially important to consider the impact of this condition when we are having to care for our patients, our teams, and our families. Any individual person would struggle with the amount of stress that you, as a practice leader, are carrying in your shoulders.

We wanted to share with you some ways that you can prevent compassion fatigue, and how to combat feeling overwhelmed both at the hospital and at home.

  1. Practice self-care: One of the best ways to prevent compassion fatigue is to care for yourself. This can take a large amount of effort, especially if you are a caretaker of others at home. Usually, self-care will involve eating a balanced, nutritious diet, participating in some kind of exercise or conscious movement, maintaining a routine sleep schedule, and honoring your emotional needs (more on this later).
  2. Set emotional boundaries: Sometimes we can feel as though our client’s problems and our employee’s problems are our problems. It is important to understand that, while we can do everything we can to help clients and team members, our ability to solve their problems is limited. Be OK with using the tools you have available, and let the client work with their own set of tools. Understand that any cuts you make to team hours are in the interest of keeping the hospital operational so they can be brought back in the future. Don’t try to solve other’s problems, and be sure you are making decisions that will help keep your hospital’s doors open or allow them to re-open when this crisis is over. 
  3. Engage in hobbies: This is an important aspect of balance. Be sure that you are taking the time to participate in hobbies (that allow for social distancing, of course). If your hobby is painting, set aside time to paint every day. If your hobby is Netflix and chill with your pup or kitty, be sure you get an hour or two of quality TV time in. It is easy to feel guilty taking time for ourselves, but it is one of the most important steps you can take to defend and protect your emotional state.
  4. Use positive coping strategies: Being at home with our families can be enough to drive some of us to drink. Pair that with being at home with our families more than usual, plus the difficult conversations we are having, it can be easy to dive into negative coping strategies such as drinking or other self-harm. While having a drink is OK for most people, be conscious if you are starting to form bad habits.
  5. Create work strategies: Be sure you are taking regular breaks, eating and drinking at regular intervals, taking a few minutes to walk around the house, and taking other distractions. Working for 10 hours without a break increases stress and actually decreases productivity. It also increases the chances of mistakes and sets a bad example for your team. It is OK to walk away for a few minutes.

Unfortunately, many people are fearful or uncomfortable discussing how they are feeling because we usually try to distance ourselves from our emotions while at work. However, this is not the time for hiding behind a stiff upper lip. If you are feeling overwhelmed, or if you feel that your emotions are becoming too much, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional. Your GP can provide you with references if you aren’t sure where to look. Your health insurance company may offer an Employee Assistance Program that you can contact for help as well. There are e-therapy providers as well, which help maintain physical distancing and allow you to seek help on your schedule.

Remember, you are not in this alone. We are all in this together. Every business in the world is affected by the COVID-19 virus and associated laws and regulations. Don’t allow your stress levels to go unchecked. Reach out to those who can help, whether it is a family member, a friend, or mental health professional.

March 21st, 2020

HR News

COVID-19 & Your Team: Families First Coronavirus Response Act

With new directives about social distancing and shelter-in-place being announced daily, it’s understandable if you as a practice owner might be feeling overwhelmed, confused, and anxious, particularly in light of the passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

This legislation, passed by Congress on March 14 and signed into law by the president shortly thereafter, is a comprehensive relief bill aimed at softening the financial fallout of COVID-19 on working families.

This law goes into effect April 2, meaning no one has much time to adjust to its mandates. You’re probably wondering, “How does this bill impact me as the owner of a small business in the healthcare field?” We’ll try to answer that question here.

Let’s begin with the Emergency Sick Leave provision of the bill. This section states that employers with fewer than 500 workers must provide employees who cannot telework with paid sick time off if the employee is:

  • subject to a quarantine or self-isolation order
  • advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to coronavirus concerns
  • currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis
  • caring for an individual in quarantine
  • caring for a child whose daycare or school is closed and other child care cannot be obtained due to coronavirus precautions
  • an employee who is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by HHS in consultation with the Treasury and Labor Departments.

This provision is complicated and multi-faceted, but here are a few key takeaways: full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of sick leave, and part-time workers are granted leave equivalent to their average hours worked in a two-week period. All employees who meet the above criteria are eligible for this benefit, regardless of how long they’ve worked for you.

The bill does offer some wiggle room to small enterprises. If you employ fewer than 50 people and can prove that the imposition of such requirements would jeopardize the viability of your business going forward, you can appeal to the Department of labor for an exemption.

Let’s move onto to the second section of the bill, which applies to Emergency Family Leave. Under this provision, you’ll be required to provide up to 12 weeks of family leave for employees who’ve been on the job for at least 30 days and are unable to work or telework because they have to care for a minor child if a) the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or b) if the child care provider of that child is unavailable due to a coronavirus emergency.

The first 10 days of leave can be unpaid – your workers might opt to use accrued vacation days, for instance – but after that, they’re entitled to 2/3rds their normal pay rate. Paid leave is capped at $200 per day and $10,000 total.

The same potential for exemption that applies to the Emergency Sick Leave provision of the law applies here, too. You can appeal to the Department of Labor if you employ fewer than 25 people and can show that payouts to workers while they’re on leave will make it impossible for you to stay in business.

If you’re thinking at this point, “I am not going to be able to afford to follow this law,” there’s hope. To help you shoulder the significant financial burdens you might face in complying with this bill, it also includes a third provision dealing Employer Tax Credits.

This is perhaps the most complex and legalese-heavy portion of the bill, but here’s what you need to know: as an employer of fewer than 500 workers, you are eligible for a refund of the 6.2% employer portion of the Social Security tax to help you cover wages paid to employees for time off under the sick leave and family leave program.

  • The sick leave credit for each employee will be for wages (including qualified health plan expenses relating to those wages) of up to $511 per day while the employee is receiving paid sick leave to care for himself or herself, or $200 if caring for a family member or child whose school has closed. The credit will be limited to 10 days per employee per quarter.
  • The family leave credit for each employee will be for wages (including qualified health plan expenses relating to those wages) of as much as $200 per employee per day, and $10,000 in the aggregate for all calendar quarters.
  • To prevent a double benefit, employers must include the amount of credits received in their gross income.

A complete list of the statute’s requirements and benefits can be found here.