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Happy Holidays! Tips to Navigate Time-off, Parties and Gifts

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By Jessica Valdez   |    December 11, 2017   |    9:07 AM


How Small Business Owners Should Handle the Holiday Season

For small business owners, the holiday season can come with unique stressors. With some good planning, however, you can sidestep complications and streamline the experience. From time-off to holiday pay, here is how you can keep things running smoothly during the holidays.

Determine holiday pay. The law does not require private employers to provide paid holidays to non-exempt employees. On the other hand, business owners must pay exempt employees their full salaries, as long as they work even one day of the workweek. In certain states, including Rhode Island and Massachusetts, some employers may have to offer premium pay to non-exempt employees who work during a holiday. When determining how to compensate your staff, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with all applicable laws. You should also consider your business needs, company resources and general practices in previous years.

Create a policy for bonuses. During the holidays, many business owners offer bonuses to reward and recognize employee accomplishments. These are usually given out as discretionary or nondiscretionary awards. With nondiscretionary bonuses, the employer announces the award in advance to encourage loyalty and productivity. To become eligible, the employee understands he or she will have to meet certain criteria, centering on productivity or attendance. With discretionary bonuses, the award is neither announced in advance nor tied to any specified standards. However you decide to award your employees during the holiday season, just remember that most bonuses should be factored into the worker's regular rate of pay when determining overtime.

Develop time-off policies. It's quite common for employees to request vacations during the holiday season. Make sure your workers understand the correct way to request their time off, so you won't be blindsided. You should also clearly state how you will grant requests. You can't have everyone taking off at once, so you may need to use certain factors to determine which requests to grant. You can have a first-come first-served policy, or you can base it on seniority, performance metrics or overall attendance. However you decide to do it, make sure everything is crystal clear several months before the holiday season kicks off.

Plan smart parties. A holiday party is a great way to boost morale and improve office culture as you head into the new year. When planning your party, there are some things to keep in mind. If the party takes place during office hours, the employees will probably be entitled to pay. If you plan to serve alcohol, check with your insurance provider to get a clear understanding of your coverage and liabilities. You should also remind your staff that dress codes and anti-harassment policies will be in effect during the party, even if it is being held somewhere offsite.

Set gift-giving standards. It's quite common for vendors and suppliers to send employees gifts during the holiday season. Avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest by setting clear guidelines about giving and receiving gifts. You might require that all gifts be limited to a nominal value. Whatever the case, be sure to require your employees to report any gift they receive.

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