3 Tips to Avoid Holiday Liability Traps

With the holidays right around the corner, employers and HR professionals are shifting their focus to meet the demands of employee, client, and customer expectations. As should be expected, perhaps, the holiday rush presents unique liability traps for the unwary employer.

As your employment risk management partner, HBL offers you the following three strategies for managing risk during the holiday season.

Tip #1 – Clearly communicate payroll policies and practices to seasonal employees.

Whether your busy holiday season is tax time (CPA firms) or the December holidays (retailers, restaurants, and many others), you may rely on seasonal help who will, inevitably, lack familiarity with your organization’s procedures. For many employers, this lack of familiarity may result in unintentional off-the-clock work and uncompensated overtime. When hiring seasonal employees, make sure all normal onboarding processes are followed, including trainings on your payroll policy and reporting procedures.

Tip #2 – Consider floating holidays.

As you are probably aware, not all employees celebrate the December holidays. Instead of the December holidays, certain employees may celebrate religious or other personal holidays at different times of the year. To provide accommodations to these employees and maintain a level of productivity, consider offering floating holidays. A “floating holiday” is a paid day that employees may use, at their discretion (and with management prior approval), as opposed to specific holidays scheduled by management. For example, you may have an employee who wishes to take a holiday at the end of Ramadan, as opposed to Christmas day. If this employee has a floating holiday available, he may take a floating holiday at the end of Ramadan and work in the office on Christmas day.

Tip #3 – Plan holiday parties with risk management in mind.

With proper risk management strategies, holiday parties can be a great moral booster, without increasing legal costs. First to of all, anytime the professional atmosphere of a workplace is disrupted (even for positive reasons, such as parties) there may be an increased risk of sexual harassment. Prior to a holiday party, depending on the nature of the party, it may make sense to remind employees of the types of behavior that constitute sexual harassment and that the company will not tolerate such behavior at an employer-sponsored event. Additionally, if your company intends to either serve or allow alcohol, you may want to host the event at a third-party venue and provide alternative transportation for employees as needed. Finally, unless you plan to pay hourly workers to attend the party, hold the event after business hours and reinforce, verbally and in writing, that the event is entirely optional, and attendance or non-attendance will not affect employees’ jobs in anyway.

BONUS TIP: Start preparing for the new year now with a pay equity audit.

If conducted with an appropriate communications strategy, a pay equity audit could be a crucial risk management tool for your business to grow and thrive during the coming year. Please see last week’s video for pay equity tips.

If you have any questions about the above, please contact Hall Benefits Law. We would love to hear from you, and the HBL team looks forward to serving as your legal risk management partner!
Keely Collins may be reached directly at 470-217-0167

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Hall Benefits Law, LLC

HBL offers employers comprehensive legal guidance on benefits in mergers and acquisitions, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), executive compensation, health and welfare benefits, healthcare reform, and retirement plans. We counsel a wide spectrum of clients including small, mid-sized, and large companies, 401(k) investment advisors, health insurance brokers, accountants, attorneys, and HR consultants, just to name a few. HBL is passionate about advising clients, and we are dedicated to our mission: to provide comprehensive, personalized, and practical ERISA and benefits legal solutions that exceed client expectations.

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