People often look forward to the holidays because it means they may get an extra day (or two) off. The biggest question is whether or not it is paid time.

Let’s take care of the legal questions first. You are not obligated to provide a paid holiday, even if you close for the day. You are not obligated to pay exempt (salaried) employees for the holiday if they do no work that day. You are not obligated to pay any employee an “extra” amount if they work on the holiday… their regular pay for hours worked is sufficient.

You can provide a different group of employees a different holiday plan, such as unpaid holidays for non-exempt employees and paid holidays for exempt staff. You may even require a different eligibility period for the different groups. The trick here is to make sure the groups are clearly distinct from one another so you aren’t discriminatory (exempt vs. non-exempt, office staff vs. field employees, manager and above, etc.).

My suggestion is to consider holidays in steps, based on what your company can afford both now and going forward. Remember, closing your company for a holiday is a separate decision from paying employees for that same day. Just because you close for the day does not make it automatic that employees will receive a paid day off.
• The basic holiday package includes (1) New Year’s Day, (2) Memorial Day, (3) 4th of July, (4) Labor Day, (5) Thanksgiving, and (6) Christmas. No matter your religion, Christmas day is the standard.
• The next most common addition is (7) President’s Day. This is nice because it provides a break in the long period between New Year’s and Memorial Day.
• When you start expanding your holiday list further, you might consider adding (8) the day after Thanksgiving since Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday. If you’re too busy at that time to be closed for a long weekend, look at other possibilities.
• At this point consider the total number of holidays you want and can afford to provide if these are, or may eventually become, paid holidays. For instance, you might say we’ll target 10 holidays per year with 8 of them as the holidays listed above. Then, “this year” we’ll also close (9) the day after Christmas because that’s a Friday and we’ll close (10a) a 1/2 day on Christmas Eve and (10b) a 1/2 day on New Year’s Eve. Basically, those other 2 holidays are dates you choose each year.

Send out a memo in December or January of each year listing the specific dates of holidays your company will observe in the new year. Don’t forget to post the memo somewhere employees will see it since they often forget to keep their copy.

About Your Columnist

CJ Westrick is a featured columnist for Women Taking Charge, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence, where she covers all things human resources and managing people in the workplace. CJ Westrick, SPHR, has been in human resources (HR) management for over 20 years and has maintained her SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) national certification since 2002. She started HR Jungle, a human resources consulting firm, in 2006 to provide senior-level HR expertise to businesses without internal HR.

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