The holiday season is always a busy time of year – both for businesses and in people’s personal lives. Business owners have a lot to consider as the year winds down and the seasonal activities ramp up, but what is actually required for time off during the holidays?
What’s Required for Holiday Paid Time Off (PTO)
First, let’s talk about what you’re required to do when it comes to holiday paid time off (PTO) planning. For a private-sector (non-government) company, there is no federal law that requires certain holidays be observed – even federal holidays. Depending on your state, you may need to offer premium pay or an alternative day off if someone works on a paid holiday when the rest of the company is closed.
Religion is another consideration when it comes to holidays. Religious discrimination is unlawful and businesses with more than 15 employees need to make reasonable accommodations for those who wish to observe a religious holiday. That said, if the accommodation would cause undue hardship on your business, you may be exempt. Make sure your reason for denying a request is justified.
What’s Recommended for Work During Holidays
So, if holiday time off isn’t required, what’s recommended when it comes to holiday PTO planning? Of course, you need to factor in your company’s unique needs, your annual payroll budget, the local market, and your employee’s work-life balance. Time off, especially around the holidays, is one of the best ways to boost employee morale and retention. Nobody wants to be Mr. Scrooge this time of year! With proper planning for your holiday time off policy, you can reduce impact on the business and have your employees feeling the holiday cheer. After all, a happy team is a happy business and you may find the benefits last well after you’ve finished putting the decorations away.
Start With a Plan
Ideally, you’ll have communicated with employees before Q4 begins so everyone is aware of the holiday time off policy and procedure. Team members may have unused PTO but that leaves questions, like:
- How can you prevent gaps in coverage?
- How early should requests be submitted?
- What days are being offered as holidays?
A thorough and clear holiday paid time off policy will prevent questions and confusion. You want to ensure your business is covered and avoid the mad dash to submit time off requests. If you’re planning on closing early, don’t make it a surprise. Communicate a week or two in advance to both customers and employees!
Approach with a People-First Mindset
While it’s easy to focus on what the business needs, keep in mind what your employees may need. Your team may have families to visit, school performances to attend, or out-of-town guests to host. If PTO isn’t an option, consider what flexibility you can offer – perhaps a remote work opportunity or the option to make up hours at a different time. A good starting place is to think about your own holiday needs and what you and your family would hope for from a boss. Treat your team how you’d like to be treated. Generally, if you do right by them, they’ll do right by you!
Consider the Context
Sadly, the holidays are not so merry and bright for some. Reflect on what some employees may be going through. While mental health is important year-round, the holidays can be an especially critical time to provide support. Remind employees about what assistance programs are offered and emphasize the importance of self-care during this time of year. Read more about how to support employees who may be having a harder holiday season.
Spread Holiday Cheer
Think of PTO and holidays as a great chance to tell your team “thank you.” If you aren’t able to accommodate everyone’s requests or close during the holidays, how else can you show your employees that you appreciate them? Perhaps some festive treats in the break room or a note letting them know how important they are to the company. A little can go a long way.
What else should small businesses be considering as the year comes to end? Check out these 12 HR Year End To-Dos to help you finish the year strong and kick off the new year on a positive note.
If you need help navigating your holiday paid time off policy, Inspiring HR is here to support you. Contact us today with your small business HR questions or needs.