HR Tips for the Holiday Season

Let’s hear those sleigh bells jinglin’, ring-ting-tinglin’, too! Come on, it’s lovely weather for an HR headache for you!

The holiday season can be a wonderful time, even in the workplace. It is a time to take a step back, show your staff some well-earned appreciation, and celebrate another successful year together. The holiday season can, however, bring with it its own particular HR woes. Some common holiday-specific workplace issues are discussed below.

Workplace gift-giving:  

Employees should never be made to feel pressured to purchase gifts for their supervisors. For example, employers should ensure that no one in HR is soliciting contributions for a gift for the boss. In the reverse scenario, where supervisors are giving presents to underlings, they should avoid anything too intimate in nature (stay away from pajamas and perfume, for example), and avoid any appearance of favoritism — don’t single out one employee with a more valuable gift than others are receiving. In addition, any “Secret Santa” or “Yankee Swap” should be subject to a low monetary limit, and participation should be purely voluntary.

Avoiding discrimination claims:

With talk of a so-called “War on Christmas” now a holiday tradition in its own right, many people feel strongly about not letting “political correctness” dictate their words and actions at the holidays. But employers who are frustrated by political correctness should be careful not to be so zealous about this issue that they make employees who do not celebrate Christmas uncomfortable. When it comes to the holidays, inclusiveness should be your watch word. Resist any urge you may have to put up a nativity scene in the break room, lead a group prayer at the holiday party, or engage in other religious speech or action that may appear to be company-sponsored.

Fielding PTO requests:

Many employees will want to take time off at the holidays. Some of these employees will have planned for this, ensuing they have sufficient accrued PTO time. Others will not have. If employees who have exhausted their allotted PTO wish to take time off at the holidays, some employers may choose to let them borrow against next year’s PTO allotment. Others may deny the request. The choice is up to the employer, but it advisable to be as consistent as possible about these decisions to avoid any appearance of discrimination.

Holiday party concerns:

Hosting a holiday party is a popular way for employers to express their appreciation for employees’ hard work throughout the year. But if alcohol is served at the party, employers can be subject to liability for accidents caused by inebriated employees, even when such accidents occur after the party has ended. For example, in some jurisdictions, an employer may be held liable for a drunk driving accident caused by an employee after leaving a work event where alcohol was served. To minimize such liability, and – more importantly — to ensure the safety of employees and others, employers should take steps to limit alcohol consumption at company-sponsored events. For example, providing each employee with one or two drink tickets only, or having the bar open for a limited period of time, and ensuring that minors are not served, are all steps in the right direction. And always, if alcohol is being served, plenty of food should be provided as well.
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If you need further guidance on any issues or are faced with another holiday-related HR predicament, please contact PMP. And from all of us here at PMP, here’s wishing you a happy holiday season and a successful new year!  Please keep in mind that in addition to our staff of seasoned HR professionals, we also have a staff of experienced employment lawyers on hand to address any questions you may have regarding compliance.



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