When do you have to pay for staff members to attend continuing education or meetings? Here are important points to remember.
First, when the continuing education (CE) or meeting is mandatory, you have to pay for the employee’s time regardless of the day of the week or if the meeting falls outside of normal working hours. If you have a mandatory staff meeting on a non-patient day, for example, you have to pay for the team’s time.
There is an exception to the mandatory rule for CE if the staff member needs CE to maintain a license—hygienists or associate dentists fit this category, for example. However, the exception must meet one important requirement: you do not require the employee to take CE at a specific day or time. If, for example, you require your hygienist to attend CE on a non-patient day, you do not meet the exception and you have to pay wages. This is a common oversight by dentists. If you allow your hygienist or associate to attend CE whenever they want, you meet the exception and you do not have to pay wages during the class.
In order to not compensate non-licensed staff for CE or meetings, all of the following must be true.
1) The event must be outside of normal work hours.
2) Attendance must be voluntary.
3) The employee must not perform any productive work during that time.
4) Training must not be directly related to the job and/or does not benefit the practice.
Read the last point very carefully. That is the one that is often overlooked. If your team voluntarily goes to the Oregon Dental Conference, for example, on a non-patient day, and they do not perform any work while sitting through a class, you still have to pay for their time at the course since it is job related.
The only exception to this rule is for the licensed professional discussed above, assuming the requirement is met.
This usually leads dentists to ask if they can pay a different rate of pay for CE and meetings. Yes, you can, assuming the rate of pay is above minimum wage, and the rate is established in advance and in writing—your employee handbook is a good place for this.
When your team takes CE or you schedule meetings, make sure you follow the rules regarding compensation for your team.