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.
For nearly 30 years Homer Simpson has been a big part of Sector 7-G at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. We can only assume the plant’s billionaire owner, C. Montgomery Burns did not have a very thorough background process. We’ve seen Homer involved in countless accidents, that have even resulted in the death of a co-worker. (Rest in Peace Frank Grimes.)
It’s not just pre-employment background checks that Mr. Burns (or any employer) should be concerned about. Employment Background Checks should be done annually to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone on the team. Pre-employment screenings are encouraged to avoid any potential problems, but as time goes on, you never know what issues may develop. Case in point…
While making the rounds one day at the plant, Homer is distracted and crashes his cart into a radioactive pipe. This action led to his immediate dismissal. However, Homer can be a convincing guy and after promising to clean up his act (and expose the plant) he is hired back as a safety supervisor.
But don’t let that title fool you. A more consistent watch of Homer by Mr. Burns and his management team would recognize more inconsistencies in safety. Homer has fallen asleep on the job more than once. One time his mid-afternoon nap resulted in him pressing the self-destruct button on the T-437 Safety Console he is supposed to be manning.
We’ve seen Homer steal from the workplace too. He has a collection of items that still have the Property of Springfield Nuclear Power Plant stamped on them. Homer has also been quoted as saying, “Another day, another box of stolen pens.” It’s this kind of behavior that could be quelled with better supervision and the use of annual background checks on current employees.
Homer’s work ethic seems to be lacking too. He’s never stayed particularly loyal to Mr. Burns. Homer has tried his hand at being an astronaut, a country music producer/manager and a voice over artist for a cartoon dog named Poochie. Could Mr. Burns just be desperate for the cheap labor or are their redeemable qualities in having Homer Simpson on the payroll that we’re not seeing?
We d’ohn’t want you to make the same mistakes Mr. Burns has made with his hiring of Homer Simpson. MBI Worldwide’s motto is Good Screening is SMART Business.
For quick, compliant and reliable background checks, contact MBI Worldwide at 1-866-275-4624.
Are your employees often late, or have had a few too many absences? Maybe it’s because you haven’t clearly defined what’s acceptable and what’s not. It’s up to management to set clear attendance expectations and take action when employees push the boundaries.
Here are some ways you can clearly define the dos and don’ts of your attendance policy, so that everyone in the company is on the same page.
1. Set clear expectations.
If you’re OK with people leaving the office when their work for the day is done, say so. However, if your staff needs to be in the office for a certain length of time each day, then you’ll need to set specific work hours and inform your entire workforce. If you want to give your employees some leeway, then set clear definitions on what is considered “late.”
2. Define paid vs. unpaid time off.
If your company offers employee paid sick or vacation days, explain your policy for requesting time off, including any deadlines or restrictions. You should also define the terms and conditions for paid holidays.
3. Create a disciplinary policy, and stick to it.
Your policy should be documented in your employee handbook, so that every employee is fully aware of the rules. In addition to documenting the policy, be sure to explain disciplinary procedures when employees violate the policy. After your employees have received the policy, ask them to sign an acknowledgment document indicating that they read and understood the policies.
4. Get your employees on board.
Your employees will be less likely to feel singled out and resent your attendance policy if it’s consistent company-wide. Take the time to talk to your employees about the importance of an attendance policy. Explaining how their absence affects productivity and objectives can help them understand where you’re coming from.
5. Walk the walk.
If you’re late every day, leave early once or twice a week and miss work regularly, you’re giving unspoken permission to your staff to do the same. Not acceptable? Then it’s time you consider creating a written time and attendance policy that all employees-including management-are expected to adhere to.
Tracking employee attendance is important to your business. A well-developed time and attendance policy can help you get back to the business of business, instead of constantly addressing issues of tardiness and absenteeism.
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.