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Don’t Be a Scrooge: Protect Yourself From HR Issues This Holiday Season

by Tim AustinDecember 19, 2013 8:11 AM

When it comes to the observance of holidays in the workplace, it can be tough to balance productivity, compliance and fun. Just like the ghost of holiday past returned to haunt Ebenezer Scrooge, there are some workplace festivities that – in the form of HR headaches – could come back to haunt you. Here are some helpful tips that protect you from liabilities, while still allowing you and your employees to enjoy the holiday season: 

Don't be a Scrooge this holiday season.

 

Time Off Accommodations

This area of human resources can bring out the inner-Scrooge in every business owner during the holidays. With more people off, less can get accomplished, meaning lost revenue opportunities for you. While federal law does not require you to pay staff before and after a holiday, you can boost employee morale by making the best attempts to accommodate religious observances, beliefs and practices as long as they do not cause undue hardship. If you need to remain open during the holidays, consider how many employees you need to operate and offer incentives to employees to work certain days. Offer catered lunches, pay time-and-half or create a rotating schedule to allow employees to select which days they would prefer to work. Additionally, it is a good idea to implement a holiday time-off policy detailing how employees should request time-off and how it will be awarded (seniority, first-come, first serve, etc.). 

Decorations

As a private employer, you can decide if and how you want to decorate your space for any holiday throughout the year. You can decorate using more secular displays such as snowflakes or other winter images.  You can also encourage individual employees to contribute to decorating the office or their working space to ensure everyone’s religious beliefs and traditions are represented. To prevent any major conflicts, publish rules about the type of displays which are acceptable and those that are not for safety reasons. Remind employees to be mindful of others’ and discourage scented displays or blinking lights which may be a distraction.  

Bonuses 

If you give your employees bonuses or other monetary gifts at the end of the year, you need to be careful as they can be considered compensation or gifts.  If the bonuses are considered compensation, they must be included in the regular rate of pay for overtime purposes. Money given as a gift on a special occasion does not have to be included as is it not based on worked hours, employee efficiency or other measurement of productivity.

The holidays can present many frustrating challenges for business owners, but if you follow these tips, you don’t have to turn into a Scrooge to make it through this busy time of year.

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