Employers More Generous With Parties, Gifts, Charity

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With the worst of the economic downturn seemingly over, employers appear to be feeling more holiday cheer this year, as evidenced by a greater likelihood of giving employees holiday gifts and bonuses, greater sponsorship of holiday parties, and increased participation in charitable activities, according to BNA's 2010 Year-End Holiday Practices survey.

The survey, based on responses from 300 human resources and employee relations executives, includes the following highlights:

Employers will be more generous in providing holiday gifts and bonuses. Just over four in 10 employers (41 percent) will give employees some type of year-end gift or bonus this holiday season, up significantly from the historical low of 33 percent of employers that did so in 2009. This marks a reversal of a three-year decline in holiday gift giving.

There has been an upswing in sponsorship of year-end holiday parties and companywide celebrations. More than three in four employers (76 percent) will hold some sort of year-end holiday celebration in 2010, up 9 percentage points from the 10-year low of 67 percent of employers that sponsored such events in 2009. The proportion of employers that will sponsor a companywide holiday party, where employees can all gather in a single location, has also increased from 50 percent in 2009 to 58 percent in 2010.

Employers will be more generous than they were last year in allowing access to companywide parties to nonemployees. More than half of surveyed employers (52 percent) will open up their companywide holiday parties to spouses or other guests, compared with the 47 percent that did so in 2009. This nearly erases the 8 point decline from 2008 to 2009 in the proportion of employers that were willing to open up their year-end celebrations to spouses or guests of employees.

Alcohol will be widely available but less so than in previous years. Among employers offering year-end companywide parties, 58 percent will be serving alcoholic beverages to guests. While this is a sizeable majority, it is a 3 percentage-point decline in the availability of spirits since 2009 (61 percent) and a 7-point decline since 2008 (65 percent).

Organizations will be taking measures to limit excessive drinking. Out of concern for their employees, as well as for protecting themselves from legal liability, companies have adopted measures to monitor and limit excessive alcohol consumption at year-end celebrations. Nearly three-quarters of employers (74 percent) will task bartenders with monitoring alcohol consumption. Other measures will include limiting times when alcohol is served (54 percent), offering taxi service for employees and guests (49 percent), providing discounted hotel rates to encourage overnight stays (24 percent), and appointing designated drivers (4 percent).

Most organizations will sponsor or allow other types of year-end celebrations. Six in 10 employers (60 percent) will either sponsor or help to fund other year-end holiday celebrations or permit informal parties on company time. This figure is virtually unchanged from the proportion of employers that had these types of parties in 2009 and 2008.

Participation in charitable activities will increase this holiday season. Nearly two-thirds of employers (64 percent) will sponsor or participate in one or more charitable activities this holiday season, compared with the 59 percent of employers that made this commitment in 2009.

The calendar will allow for much less generous paid holiday leave. With both Christmas and New Year's falling on weekends this holiday season, employers will be much less likely than they have been in the past three years to provide extended holiday leave. Fewer than four in 10 employers (37 percent) will be scheduling three or more days of paid leave in the 2010 holiday season. By comparison, nearly six in 10 employers (58 percent) gave at least three days paid leave in 2009, with even more providing extended leave in 2008 (66 percent) and 2007 (63 percent).

Required year-end holiday work has not changed significantly since last year. Just under three in 10 surveyed employers (28 percent) will require that at least some workers be on premise this Christmas, New Year's Day, or both, little changed from 27 percent during the 2009 holiday season.