It’s the most wonderful time of the year … and one of the busiest times for employee schedules. The Christmas season quickly can turn blue for both employees and companies when holiday vacations and paid time off (PTO) aren’t handled well.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to provide paid federal holidays for employees — in fact, it doesn’t even bar companies from asking (or forcing) employees to work Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas Day.
However, the FLSA serves as a minimum requirement guide; employers can use holiday vacation time to boost receipts. Healthy, rested employees are more productive and more creative, so ensuring that your employees take a little time off around the holidays is actually an investment in next year’s profits.
Create a holly, jolly holiday vacation schedule that still supports your overall year-end business goals by following these procedures:
Set holiday vacation expectations in advance.
It’s often not the actual time an employee takes off but the confusion of planning time off that causes problems for companies. So make a list and check it twice: Set clear expectations for holiday vacation requests and stick to them. If PTO requests are due by Dec. 1, have HR send a reminder on Nov. 15.
Remind employees to vacation throughout the year.
Taking breaks from work is good for employees. Every quarter, remind them that their health and satisfaction is important to you, and send a copy of the vacation policy. By encouraging employees to use their allotted vacation days steadily throughout the year, you’ll neutralize the year-end rush on unused vacation days.
Prepare for a decreased workforce.
Plan ahead for the holiday season, especially the week following Christmas. If it’s feasible, don’t schedule client meetings, important deadlines or company events when you know you’ll be understaffed. And throw your company holiday party a week or more ahead of Dec. 25; your staff will thank you for easing the time crunch of Christmas week.
If your corporate culture allows it, have employees work together to create a holiday schedule. Often, if employees understand which days are important to which co-workers, they’ll compromise, allowing everyone to take off the days most valuable to them while still covering important shifts. When employees have some autonomy over their time, they’ll handle it with maturity and teamwork.
Remember the reason for the season.
The span between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day means many things to many people. Religious holidays like Hanukkah and Christmas, family reunions, long-distance travel, kids’ school plays — these are the most important events of the year for employees and their families. Consider every vacation request with this in mind.
All talk of PTO needs to be taken with this grain of salt: Some industries simply cannot close or run low-staffed during the holidays. Restaurant and retail staff, hospital and emergency personnel, news anchors, gas station attendees and numerous others work 24/7 to ensure a smooth holiday season for the rest of us.
If your company remains open during the holidays, make sure your employees feel appreciated, and keep the holiday schedule as fair as possible. As mentioned in our Thanksgiving blog, forcing employees to work a holiday under fear of losing their jobs can create a PR nightmare. Instead, offer holiday pay, postponed time off or other perks to entice employees to volunteer. When an employee volunteers for a shift, he’s likely happy to be at work.
And that makes the holidays a little merrier for everyone.
The content of this blog is intended to keep interested parties informed of legal and industry developments for educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal opinion or tax advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for legal or tax advice.