Holidays & PTO: An Employer’s Guide

The holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year – a time to shop, wrap, bake, decorate, and much more. But, what happens when all of your employees want paid time off to perform all of their holiday duties and traditions? We have your answers.

Let’s start at the beginning. Paid time off (PTO) is any time an employee does not work but is still paid for the day. Companies often offer PTO to employees to take vacation days, deal with family issues, or just have some down time. Holidays are often a popular time to ask for PTO so employees can travel and spend time with family and friends. Here’s what you need to know about PTO during the holidays:

  • You can deny PTO requests: Although it can be tough, employers do have the right to deny a request for PTO during the holidays. There are no federal mandates requiring employers to give employees time off on nationally-recognized or other holidays.
  • Know what works for your business: Be flexible, but realistic. If you can afford it, try to accommodate those PTO requests. We recommend that employees be required to work their regularly-scheduled shifts before and after the holiday to qualify for PTO on the holiday itself. (A scheduled PTO day “counts” as having worked their shift.)
  • Be fair in accommodating requests: Create a policy for determining PTO requests and stick to it. Some businesses prefer a “first come, first serve” approach, but that can be difficult if certain staffers request off each holiday far in advance to ensure they have time off. Perhaps you require your employees to work at least one holiday per year and switch the holidays each year. As long as the policy is lawful, it doesn’t matter so much what it is, but rather that you follow it for each employee.
  • Be aware of religious holidays & PTO regulations: Religious discrimination in the workplace is unlawful. If an employee asks for the day off for religious or belief reasons and you deny their request, you must provide a reason unrelated to religion or belief to justify your decision.
  • Understand the rights of hourly and salary employees.
    • Hourly employees: Employers do not have to pay hourly (or non-exempt) employees for holidays unless, of course, they work that holiday. Also, holiday and PTO time do NOT have to count toward the weekly calculation of overtime (check your handbook for the definition of overtime hours.)
    • Salaried employees: There are a few exceptions, but generally, exempt employees should be paid their weekly salary if they work any hours during the week that the holiday falls.

Above all, appreciate your employees. Even if you can’t accommodate everyone’s requests for time off, tell your employees “thank you” for working the holiday season. Consider providing free snacks or hot chocolate in the break room for employees who work on a holiday. Write them handwritten “thank you” notes. Keep it simple, but let your employees know that you appreciate their work. Happy holidays!

With the arrival of the holiday season usually comes inclement weather. Read our tips to a fair and consistent inclement weather policy.




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