There are multiple costs associated with meetings and continuing education involving a dental team. First, there is the total cost for the meeting or educational event, which includes meals and travel expenses for everyone. Second, as discussed in a previous blog, there is compensable time for the team during the meeting and educational event. There is also a third expense that is often overlooked: travel pay.
While regular commute time going to and from the dental practice is not compensable, there are times when nonexempt (hourly) employees are required to receive pay for travel time. Let’s consider a few examples.
The doctor and team fly out of state for a two-day continuing education conference. When the team is in transit (in this example as passengers), the time spent traveling is compensable when it falls during normal business hours regardless of the day of week the travel occurs. If regular work hours are 8:00 am until 5:00 pm, time spent traveling during that time is compensable whether travel occurs during the week or on a weekend. Travel time includes time spent driving to the airport, going through security, waiting for the flight, flying on the plane, and traveling from the airport to the destination for each team member.
There are two additional considerations when it comes to the travel time rule. First, if work is being done while traveling (e.g., you require the team to read conference-related material while in flight or you are discussing patient cases while in transit), that part of travel time is compensable no matter when it occurs. For example, you and the team travel by car after work to a conference, and the entire way to the conference you are discussing several patient cases. Even though travel occurred outside of regular work hours, travel time is compensable since work was being done.
The second caveat to remember is that when team members are driving, that time is also compensable no matter when it occurs.
Please keep in mind that you can set an hourly rate of pay for travel that is less than an employee’s regular rate of pay. The only requirement is that total compensation earned for the pay period (regular pay plus travel/meeting pay) divided by hours worked has to be at or above minimum wage. In addition, travel pay needs to be set ahead of time, preferably in your written policy manual.
When planning for continuing education and meetings, be sure not to overlook travel pay requirements.