Now that fall is here, we all know what is next: the
holidays. And while the holidays are
supposed to be a time of fun and good cheer, they can also bring stress and anxiety.
As an employer, there are a lot of things you should consider.
Religious holidays of
different faiths: From October through December there are holidays for at
least 14 different faiths as well as cultural, federally-recognized, and
sports- and shopping-related holidays.
While these holidays have different levels of importance to their
respective adherents, being open and understanding about their meaning to your
employees is essential. While some like to say, “Merry Christmas,” others
embrace “Happy Holidays.” Neither is
wrong – in fact supporting differing views in the workplace is entirely the
Busy season: If
your company has year-end responsibilities such as meeting client demand,
inventory, closing out the books for the year, etc., make sure your employees
are aware of their obligations in advance so they can plan accordingly. Consider
scheduling celebrations after the season is over.
Holiday parties: There are many holiday party options
depending on your size, budget, and employee interest. Some companies host big,
fancy parties with dinner and dancing.
Other companies choose themes such as casino night (please – no real
gambling!), masquerade ball, or holidays around the world. Whatever you do, make sure everyone feels
invited and included, regardless of faith or interest.
standard party: A big party may not fit into the plans for various reasons
– participation, budget, employee or company struggles, etc. If so, you can consider alternatives such as
a company luncheon or potluck meal or a family-inclusive function. Maybe allow
employees to have the rest of the day off with pay as an extra perk. Sometimes just hosting employees in a small
gathering will meet the objectives of letting employees socialize and saying
“thank you” for their dedication.
Alcohol or no
alcohol: Regardless of when hosted, if a company offers alcohol at a
company function, there is liability to consider. If an employee drinks too much and is
injured, it could have Workers’ Comp implications. Worse, if an employee gets into an accident
while driving home after a function, the company may be liable for injuries and
damages if related to alcohol served.
If social drinking is part of the culture, consider limiting the number
of drinks and strength of alcohol served and have other transportation options such
as designated drivers or ride-share services available to get everyone home
Gift exchanges: If
you arrange or allow employee gift exchanges, be sure that rules are established
and followed: everyone should be invited but not required to participate; the
price should be reasonable; gifts must not violate harassment or discrimination
policies; and any procedures for the exchange itself are clearly established
beforehand (i.e., trades, “do-overs”, picking order, etc.).
Year-end bonuses /
gifts: If your company gives
employees year-end bonuses or gifts at the holidays or year-end, be sure that
proper tax rules are followed.
Non-discretionary bonuses (those paid routinely or are required to be
given if certain criteria are met) usually must be taxed and calculated into
overtime regardless of the form.
Discretionary bonuses (those given purely by choice) may not need to be
taxed. Sometimes small or non-monetary
gifts may be excluded from tax calculations but consult your accountant
beforehand so employees know what to expect.
Vacations / time off:
The holiday season means a lot of employees want to take time off to spend
with their families, travel, or both.
School-aged children have long vacations, college-aged and grown
children come back home, and families travel to other destinations. Some companies close the week between
Christmas and New Year’s due to low demand, but most need to keep enough staff
to cover customer needs and production demands.
If you are in the latter group consider the following:
· If you need coverage during all holidays,
alternate who takes which holidays off. Perhaps have employees list their order
of preference to come up with a fair system.
· Do not rely on seniority or “first-come,
first-serve” methods to determine who gets time off around the holidays. Consider
who had a holiday off previously or include performance into the equation.
· Do not penalize single employees in favor of those
with children. While employees who are
parents may have additional reasons to want time off during the holiday, that
does not mean that single and/or childless employees should be penalized for
not having a family.
Holiday pay: Review
your holiday pay policy to make sure employees know the expectations for them
receiving pay on holidays. Are employees
required to work the day before and after or have approved vacation / PTO to
receive pay? If an employee must work on the holiday, how are they paid (i.e.,
time-and-a-half, regular plus holiday pay, straight-time only)?
Be conscious of
employees who are having a hard time: Realize that some employees may have
a harder time during the holidays. Maybe
they recently lost a family member or are having financial difficulties or are
far away from their family. Be conscious
of those employees and, while you don’t have to do something special for them,
know that a little kindness or outreach may make a huge difference.
If you need help navigating the obstacle course of the
holidays, we’re here to help you. And
from your team at Affinity HR Group, we wish you a happy and safe holiday
McAllister, SPHR, HR Compliance – Affinity HR Group, Inc.