Employers Celebrate Holiday Season With Parties, Giving, and Time Off

Holiday festivities are in full swing, and our annual report on year-end holiday practices indicates that employers are getting into the spirit with celebrations big and small. 

In addition to hosting parties for employees, many employers have plans for charitable activities, employee gifts and bonuses, and back-to-back three-day weekends. However, some employees will be asked to work on Christmas and New Year’s Day, receiving extra pay instead of paid leave. 

These are the key areas covered in "Year-End Holiday Practices 2017," a Bloomberg BNA report based on a survey of nearly 400 HR professionals representing a broad cross-section of U.S. employers (see the infographic below). 

Parties Abound, but Watch for Booze Hounds

Three out of four employers are sponsoring holiday celebrations this year, and many of them are full-scale, companywide events. 

Smaller shindigs are also fairly common, with 42 percent of employers permitting informal parties on company time and 38 percent planning other types of celebrations, such as luncheons and department-level parties. 

Among the 57 percent of employers hosting holiday parties for all or most of their workforce, 96 percent said they’re covering the full cost, and 77 percent said they’re offering alcoholic beverages. 

To guard against overindulgence, the most common precaution is having professional bartenders or others on hand who can monitor attendees’ drinking. Safety measures may also include: 

 offering cab or ridesharing services, 

 limiting the number of free drinks, 

 limiting the time frame for serving alcohol, 

 offering discounted hotel rates, and 

 appointing or requesting designated drivers. 

Giving Has More Outward Than Inward Focus

Philanthropy has become a widespread holiday tradition in the U.S. This year, about two-thirds of the surveyed employers (65 percent) said they’re participating in charitable activities, such as toy or food collections and "adoption" programs, through which toys, food, or clothing are provided directly to local families. 

In contrast, just under two-fifths of the surveyed employers (39 percent) plan to present bonuses or gifts to employees. Among these organizations, bonuses and cash awards are about three times more common than merchandise, gift cards, or food items. 

To head off potential problems involved with holiday generosity from outside sources, most employers (79 percent) have formal gift-acceptance policies. Such policies commonly limit employees to accepting gifts of "nominal" value or impose outright bans on gifts from business associates. 

Paid Leave Makes Holidays Merry and Bright

Paid holidays on Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 are the norm. In addition, nearly half of the surveyed organizations will give employees a third day off with pay. Aside from Christmas and New Year’s Day, the most common "extra" paid day off this holiday season will be Tuesday, Dec. 26. 

But the relaxation of back-to-back three-day weekends won’t be available to everyone, as about one-third of employers said they would have at least a few workers punching the clock on Christmas and New Year’s. The types of employees most likely to work on the holidays are public safety and security personnel, as well as service and maintenance workers. 

If employees draw holiday shifts, they typically receive premium pay or compensatory time off in addition to pay. The most common policies reported by employers in this year’s survey include providing workers with double-time pay (31 percent), time-and-one-half pay (24 percent), or comp time on top of regular pay (12 percent). 

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