Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Is it time to revamp your holiday policies and procedures?

Employers realize that paid holidays are a normal and expected part of employee compensation. When retaining and hiring employees, they will weigh benefits at your company against other offers, and paid holidays can be a big consideration. While many hourly or retail workers don't necessarily get paid time off on holidays (if their businesses are even closed at all), most office professionals would be wary of accepting a position that did not offer any paid holidays. Businesses also often offer half days or early dismissal on days such as Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, or attempt to match school holidays as much as possible as a tangible commitment to the work/life balance of their employees.

How can your company gain an edge when offering paid holidays? Consider the needs of your potential job candidates, and balance them with the needs of your company, what your competition offers, and standards in your industry. For very little cost (since payroll is a static expense whether or not your company is open), you can provide a benefit that engenders a lot of gratitude and creates freedom for your employees. Flexibility and work/life balance are highly desirable qualities in any job, and having them helps your company achieve the goal of being a desirable place to work.

Which holidays should my company observe?

Nearly 95% of businesses offer paid time off on the Standard Six holidays.: Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Some other federal holidays, known as "swing" holidays, you may chose to observe and pay employees for are:
  • Columbus Day
  • Veterans' Day
  • Martin Luther King Day
  • Presidents' Day
Getting more creative with holidays
You should check local or state holidays that may be common paid holidays for your area. An example includes Cesar Chavez Day (March 31), which is celebrated in ten states. Patriots' Day, in honor of the Battles of Lexington and Concord by more popularly known as the day of the Boston Marathon, is celebrated the third Monday in April, and is a popular paid holiday in Massachusetts, Maine, and Wisconsin. Oddly, Rhode Island is the only state that celebrates Victory Day in honor of World War II on the second Monday in August, and state offices and many businesses are closed as a result.

You may also issue paid holidays on days where it simply makes sense. If many employees are taking off for a religious observance, like Yom Kippur or Good Friday, it may be a good idea to close that day and give all employees a paid day off. Many companies offer the day after Thanksgiving off as a paid holiday to treat their employees to a four day weekend and also due to high absenteeism on that day.

If there are any days where it's standard in your industry to close, you may consider adding those days to your paid holiday schedule. In some industries, the week between Christmas and New Year's Day is extremely slow, and due to many employees taking vacation during this time anyway, it might be easier to simply close the office.

Floating holidays
While Christmas Day is a federal holiday, it's also a religious observance for some, but not all, of your employees. If you are a company that needs coverage every day, or it's possible to allow employees to work that day, some may choose to work and use their paid holiday for a different religious observance, such as Rosh Hashanah, or on another day of their choice. The Society for Human Resource Management reports about fifteen percent of companies allow this type of holiday swapping, which is a great way to observe and embrace diversity.

Other companies give a free floating holiday to all employees, allowing them to take off for a religious observance, their birthday, or another day they choose without using accrued paid time off or vacation hours.

What if I have a non-traditional schedule or other considerations?

Does your company require 24 hour staffing? Do you have employees who have weekend or evening shifts? What about employees with compressed schedules who work 10 hour days, 4 days per week? In these cases, there are several options to choose.

You may want to pay employees who would normally work a 10 hour day for all 10 hours, though most employers will opt for 8 hours, to remain fair to traditionally scheduled employees, and require the 10 hour worker to use additional paid time off or make up the hours during the week of the holiday. When an employee must work a regular shift on a paid holiday, you can pay that person one and a half times their normal pay rate, or add comp time to their paid time off bank for future use. Just make sure your holiday policy is explicit when these situations apply to you.

If you require coverage on every day of the year, such as for emergency services or customer service, you have a few options. You should still acknowledge that holidays exist, rather than scheduling employees like they are a normal work day. It's common for hospitals, for example, to allow staff to choose one minor holiday (Memorial Day, Independence Day or Labor Day) and one major holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years) that they would like to work, with the others being paid holidays. For those working holidays, both "time and a half" pay and a floating holiday or comp time are standard benefits offered.

A few other considerations: While reviewing your holiday procedures, you will also want to determine what kind of policies you have in place for time off such as vacation, sick leave, military leave, parental leave, sabbaticals, or jury duty.

Find a holiday policy that works for your company

In essence, your holiday policy should work for your company. More paid holidays are not always better, since you have to balance outside needs with the desires of your employees. Paid holidays are a benefit for your employees, but they are also practical. If you are open on days when the vast majority of your clients, vendors or customers are not open, productivity will be markedly decreased. It's important to determine which paid holidays are best for your company as a whole for employee satisfaction and industry and cultural acknowledgement.

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