During the holiday season, employers are often faced with employee time off requests, holiday pay, and planning holiday parties. Here are some tips for managing these issues during the holiday season.
Managing Time-Off Requests
The holidays are a popular time for employees to request time off. To help maintain adequate staffing, consider granting time off based on seniority, a first-come first-served basis, scheduling needs, or a combination of these factors. Or, consider establishing blackout periods when employees may not take vacation, or provide employees with incentives to take time off during less desirable times of the year. Whatever strategy you use, train supervisors and apply your policy consistently.
Under federal law, employers with 15 or more employees are generally required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees' sincerely held religious beliefs and practices, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship. This may include providing unpaid time off. The EEOC suggests best practices for providing religious accommodations, such as facilitating voluntary shift swaps and permitting flexible scheduling.
Private employers are generally not required to provide paid holidays to hourly non-exempt employees, unless the employer has promised otherwise (in another policy or handbook). If you close for a holiday but do not offer paid holidays, hourly employees are generally not entitled to pay. However, salaried employees must still receive their full salary, as long as they work any part of the workweek.
During the holiday season, some employers see an increase in the number of employees calling in sick, particularly before and after a company holiday.
To help reduce unnecessary absences, some employers require hourly non-exempt employees to work the day before and after a company holiday in order to receive holiday pay, unless they have scheduled the time off in advance. Employers may not apply such a policy to salaried exempt employees.
If you plan on hosting a holiday party, consider the following:
Insurance coverage: Check with your insurance provider to determine what your coverage and liabilities may be during the party. For example, if an employee is injured during a company-sponsored event, he or she may be covered under your workers' compensation plan. Such coverage may depend on a variety of factors, including when and where the injury occurred.
Pay: If you plan to host the party during work hours, employees will likely be entitled to pay for time spent at the party. Generally, attendance should be voluntary and employees should not be pressured to attend or disciplined for failing to attend.
Serving Alcohol: Prior to the party, consider consulting legal counsel regarding the potential liability for serving alcohol at company events. If you prohibit alcohol, remind supervisors and employees well in advance of the party. If alcoholic beverages will be served, limit intake and ensure there is plenty of food as well as non-alcoholic beverages available.
Reinforce code of conduct and expectations: Prior to the event, remind employees that they must act responsibly and that you will enforce workplace rules, such as dress codes and anti-harassment policies, regardless of whether the party is held during work hours or on company premises. Managers and supervisors who attend the party should monitor the event and enforce company rules on a consistent basis.
To help manage your workplace obligations during the holidays, plan ahead and have clear policies and procedures in place.
Employers have a legal responsibility to protect their employees from a range of dangers and under occupational health and safety legislation, the onus is on employers to carry out due diligence by conducting workplace hazard assessments and implementing effective control measures to remedy any hazards that might have been identified as part of this process.
If you were on the witness stand and the government attorneys are asking you about your safety program, compliance and enforcement, could you answer the following with confidence?
- Are you familiar with your company’s safety program?
- Do you discipline employees for not following the rules of your safety program? How can you prove that to us?
- Do you conduct periodic safety audits (unannounced of course) to ensure employees are following your safety program and being safe? Why not? Isn’t safety important to you? How about compliance?
4 Things You Need Before Tragedy Strikes…
- Safety Program
This is more than a general safety statement in your employee handbook! Create a separate safety handbook that emphasizes the hazards your employees encounter most often. Make sure the policy is readable, understandable, and accessible to your employees. Get your supervisors on board with fully embracing the policy and its enforcement.
- Safety Training
Who does your safety training? Are they qualified? Do you give safety training both at point of hire and recurring? Classroom training alone is not enough, demonstrations are key. Practice emergencies and rescues.
The BEST Safety Program and the BEST Safety Training will fail without enforcement! If you are not writing up your employees and supervisors for failing to follow the safety program and training, you cannot show that you take safety seriously. Maintain a separate safety violations file.
Do you have regularly scheduled auditing of your safety program? If you do, your employees will always appear to be following your safety program, because they expect you, and you are actively observing! Random, unannounced is the only way to go. This is critical to having an effective workplace safety program.
Probably one of the most difficult situation for manager of a family owned business is when the need arises for you to give a friend or family member negative feedback, put them on a performance plan, or discipline them. So how do we keep things from getting personal? Here are four tips to help you get though those difficult conversations.
- Be honest and timely. You might be tempted to put off this impending responsibility, but putting off the inevitable is just going to cause you more anxiety. It’s better off if you confront this situation honestly and quickly.
- Prepare. The best way to make sure that this conversation goes as smoothly as possible is to prepare ahead of time:
- Review the details: Why exactly are you having this talk? Have you noticed the quality of their work has suffered lately? Have other employees registered complaints? Is this about a specific incident that was reported? Have your facts straight and have several examples ready (if applicable). The more information you have, the easier it will be to keep your dialogue focused on work.
- Have an objective for your conversation. What is your desired outcome to this conversation? Do you need to get them to sign a Performance Improvement Plan? Do you need to make sure they understand certain feedback? Knowing this ahead of time will help you to keep the meeting on track.
- Do not tell anyone else, besides your own manager and/or HR about this talk, especially not your mutual friends or family. One way to make this situation worse is discussing it with people that you both know. Imagine how you would feel if you found out that everyone you work with knew about a problem you were having at work and talking about it behind your back? If your friend or family member wants to talk to others about it after your conversation is over, leave that decision up to him or her.
- Be direct, professional and empathetic. Remember, not only are they receiving negative feedback or disciplinary action, but they might feel even worse knowing that their friend AND boss is disappointed. Stay on task and be professional. If you start to feel the conversation is getting too personal, remember your objective. Be sympathetic, but don’t let it keep you from accomplishing your goal before ending the conversation.
- End the conversation once your objective has been achieved. Don’t drag on the meeting, which is likely to make you both uncomfortable. Resist the urge to apologize to them or nag them about how they are feeling. Let them be in charge of their own next steps.
No matter your industry, the following five tips can help keep you and your employees healthy and productive.
1. Hire Smarter
Hiring qualified, experienced employees can dramatically reduce the number of workers’ compensation claims that are filed. Qualified employees not only know how to properly perform their jobs, but they also know the safety measures to follow to prevent injuries and accidents. That is not to say that these employees won’t have to ever file a claim, but there is a direct correlation between experience/qualifications and workers’ compensation claims.
2. Clearly define job descriptions
You should make sure that all employees have a thorough understanding of their roles in the company and the responsibilities of their position.
3. Communicate Frequently and Effectively
Don’t underestimate the power of effective communication. Many occupational injuries and illnesses can be prevented through an established communication system.
Creating written protocol for the different tasks associated with a job can go a long way toward reducing accidents.
4. Regular Safety & Health Training
Most small-business owners probably include some kind of safety training for their new hires, but safety awareness is something to be cultivated. You should meet with employees regularly to discuss safety – even if you only employ three or four workers. You can also encourage (or require) that employees attend industry safety workshops and classes, which are often held by professional organizations in your field.
Think about your current employees. Can they…
- Identify the top three occupational hazards in their line of work?
- Detail how they actively prevent accidents from happening?
- Explain the proper procedure for handling workplace accidents?
5. Create Return-to-Work Policies
You’ll want an injured employee to return to work as soon as possible. Accordingly, you should have a written policy in place.
Your policy should have a section discussing transitional work. Transitional work consists of work assignments modified to account for the employee’s injury. For example, if an employee has reduced mobility, you can have them temporarily do computer-based tasks.
Safeguarding your business and its employees from workplace risk is necessary to maintain a secure organization and protect against major bottom-line impacts.
Don’t let these 5 common payroll mistakes take your pot of gold!
1. Misclassification: Employee vs. Independent Contractor
Perhaps the most common audit issue today is misclassifying workers. There’s incentive to treat workers as independent contractors rather than employees because payroll taxes and employee benefit costs are high.
You don’t have the freedom to select the label for the worker; classification depends on whether you have sufficient control over the worker. This essentially means having the right to say when, where, and how the work gets done.
Find information about worker classification from the IRS. When in doubt, consult your tax advisor.
2. “All our employees are exempt, we pay them a salary”.
Paying someone a weekly salary does not make that employee exempt.
Remember-job titles alone do not determine the exempt or non-exempt status of any employee. Exemptions are determined for each specific employment situation based on the specific job duties performed and compensation received.
3. Allowing employees to work off the clock.
The U.S. Department of Labor and the courts do not recognize the concept of voluntary overtime without proper overtime pay. Agreements by employees to give up their rights to minimum wage and overtime pay are void and unenforceable.
Employees generally may not volunteer to perform work without the employer having to count the time as hours worked. Examples include:
- Rework: When an employee must correct mistakes in his or her work, the time must be treated as hours worked, even when the employee voluntarily does the rework.
- Waiting for Work: Time, which an employee is required to be at work or allowed to work for his or her employer, is hours worked. Is the employee “engaged to wait” or “waiting to be engaged?”
- Place of Work: Hours worked include all the time during which an employee is required or allowed to perform work for an employer, regardless of where the work is done, whether on the employer's site, at home or at some other location.
- Working during Lunch: Lunch breaks aren’t breaks if your employees work during the break.
4. Deducting money from pay without written authorization.
Other than court-ordered garnishments and deductions that are either required or specifically authorized under laws or regulations, all wage deductions should be authorized by the employee
5. Loaning money, advancing wages, or paying wages without maintaining clear, written documentation of the transaction.
Banks do not loan or advance money without a signed, written agreement for repayment and neither should an employer. If loans or wage advances are to be repaid via wage deductions, obtain written authorization for the deductions, specifying amounts and intervals, and do not forget to provide for deduction of any remaining balance at the time of a work separation. Never pay wages in cash without getting a signed, written receipt from the employee.