December 23, 2009

Handling the Holidays - Be careful and Accomodating!

Yes, it is once again the holiday season. The holidays often have employers and managers racking their brains about how they should handle them. Do you say “Happy Holidays” or do you stick with “Merry Christmas?” Is it okay to let people have days off or to let them leave early to observe different holidays? Which types of office décor are appropriate and which should you leave at home? Just thinking about all of these questions might give you a headache, but it’s very important to know how you intend on handling the holiday season in your office.

There are only two simple options when approaching holiday décor. You can either ALLOW all of it or BAN all of it. If you play favorites and tell your employees that they may display Christmas trees, but there are to be no Menorahs in the office, not only are you being unfair you are discriminating. Discrimination is most definitely an illegal offense and you don’t want to find yourself in court over something like an electric Menorah. If you let one employee decorate for the holiday that they celebrate, be prepared to allow everyone else to decorate the way that they wish to as well. On the other hand, though it might sound cold and Scrooge-like, you may choose to ban all holiday decorations regardless of religion. If you choose to go that route, be prepared to enforce the ban all year-round (watch out for Valentine’s Day and Easter!) However, if you are a public employer, it is always recommended that holiday decorations are limited to secular holiday symbols such as snowflakes and candy canes.

During this time of year, you will likely have many employees requesting time off for one holiday-related reason or another. Generally, the best way to handle these requests is to be flexible and accommodate employee’s requests to the best of your ability. Encourage employees to schedule these days well in advance. An easy way to do this would be by using an automated time and attendance system to allow employees to submit early leave requests. By submitting these requests early, you are given time to adjust the workload of others to compensate for the missing worker. Try your absolute best to accommodate your employee’s needs through flexible scheduling. You can also allow them to work longer shifts to make up hours and, provided that there’s no local or state law against it where you are located, you could also allow them to work through their lunch. If you choose not to accommodate a certain employee, be prepared to explain why and provide documentation to support your decision. If you say an accommodation is too expensive, for instance, be prepared to show the numbers. For the most part, if you encourage employees to schedule their time off early and plan for their absence, then accommodating each and every employee’s time off needs should be fairly simple. Be sure to discourage last-minute requests and remind employees of disciplinary actions that may be taken for any unscheduled absences.

The holiday season is a very important time in one way or another to most people. As an employer or manager, it is your job to respect everyone’s beliefs and handle things appropriately if you don’t want to be accused of discrimination. So make your “holiday game plan” now if you haven’t already. How are you going to handle all of the time off requests and religious icon decorations? Remember to be consistent in your rules to avoid harassment and discrimination accusations. Simply thinking ahead will help you make this holiday season as peaceful and happy as it should be.

Source: Legiant

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