Time to Plan the Holidays

“I’m never sure on which holidays I should close or pay employees if they’re off. Are there rules?”

Holidays are a true benefit and one you are not required to provide. No law requires you to pay employees for a holiday, even if you close that day. If an employee works on a holiday, they are only legally entitled to their usual hourly rate for time worked. The only real requirement is to ensure your decision is not discriminatory.

Depending on your industry and business, it may be easier to close on some holidays than others. Many restaurants may only close on Thanksgiving and Christmas; others may stay open. Consider whether employees may have difficulty being productive if nearly every other business they must contact is closed. The great news is you get to decide for your own business.

Late fall each year is the best time to think through the next year and which, if any, holidays you will close… and whether they will be a paid day off and for whom. It’s okay to have distinct groups with different eligibility, such as office staff getting paid holidays vs. field employees getting an unpaid day off, etc. But, with Thanksgiving on the horizon and more holidays coming up, look at what your policy says about eligibility so new employees will know if they are eligible.

Consider allowing employees to celebrate their own religious holidays. You can require they use personal time, unpaid time, or possibly swap for another holiday (if you need coverage during holidays). If an employee requests a day off for the religious day(s) of their choice, try to accommodate them if at all possible.

Add your policy to your Employee Handbook, plus post a list of coming holidays as a reminder for employees. It’s best to have a full year’s holidays listed so employees can plan their personal time off better. Review your list every year and determine if you’re going to allow the same or different holidays the next year.

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