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.