Holiday pay, remote work policy, and bereavement leave

Pay transparency

My office is closed for Labor Day and I usually provide 8 hours of holiday pay so the team doesn’t lose pay for the week. I recently hired a part-time employee for the first time, and she’s asking about holiday pay. She only works Wednesdays and Thursdays, so I don’t think she should get extra pay just because of holiday pay, but is that okay since it is a federal holiday?

The legal side of things: Here’s a quick rundown of all the holiday closure and holiday pay rules: there are none!

The federal holiday schedule and pay rules are for federal employees. Private employers are not obligated by state or federal law to close for any holidays, or to provide any type of holiday pay. It is entirely at your discretion how to handle holidays.

This means that your obligations for holiday closures and pay are wholly dependent upon your own policy.

But wait - because there’s always some exception to the rule - your exempt salaried employees still receive their regular salaries for a week when there is a holiday closure. You are not able to prorate exempt salaries when it was your decision, not the employee’s, not to work that day.

Now for the human approach: The holiday pay benefit you’re describing is what most employers do - issue holiday pay so that the employee isn’t losing money due to a holiday closure.

What it sounds like you’re missing is a clear policy that explains who is eligible for holiday pay, and when holiday pay is provided.

There are two factors in question here:

First, are part-time employees even eligible for holiday pay? Many businesses only make this benefit available to their full-timers. Others provide a prorated amount of holiday pay (4 hours instead of 8 hours). But there are plenty of businesses that allow all employees to receive holiday pay.

This brings in the second factor: When is holiday pay issued? In your situation, it’s pretty clear your goal is to “make the employee whole.” Meaning, ensure they don’t lose out on pay due to the holiday pay. If that’s the goal, your policy should say that employees receive holiday pay when the office is closed on a day they would’ve been scheduled to work.

The result here would be that your part-time employee doesn’t get paid for the Labor Day holiday since the holiday falls on a Monday. Even if you’re open to providing holiday pay as an employee benefit to part-time employees, the holiday would need to fall on a day they’d be working in order for them to receive pay.

More answers to common questions about holidays:

Exclusive tips for CEDR members on how to make your holidays run smoother
Video training in less than two minutes on holiday rules
I don’t normally close the office on Labor Day, but a few of my employees are convinced that I’m supposed to close since it’s a federal holiday. Is this true?
My employees say I’m required to provide holiday pay for office closures that are on recognized federal holidays. Is this true?
Our office is closing for two days for the 4th of July. Do I have to provide holiday pay for those days?

I’m interested in hiring a remote employee. Is there a standard remote work policy?

The legal side of things: One of the trickiest parts of having any type of remote workforce is making sure you're following the laws for whatever jurisdiction they're in. Employers often think that if their primary business is in one location, that location's laws are what apply across the board. That can land you in hot water. The location where the employee is working is what determines the applicable laws.

Let's say your office is in Utah and you decide to keep working with an employee when they move to Los Angeles, California. The laws in those states are drastically different, and there are even local city and county laws for this employee that go beyond the strict CA laws. Therefore, if your employee is working out of Los Angeles, you’ll be nowhere close to legal compliance if you’re basing everything on an employee handbook that was written for a Utah-based company.

Note that this is a wrinkle even when you have multiple office locations, or remote employees, within the same state. If someone is working in a different city or county than your main office, you need to make sure that you're following those local laws as well.

The same rule applies to labor law posters. Even if an employee is remote (in the same state as you or not), they need to have access to any required labor law posters. Obviously, they can't see the ones posted in your office, but you can provide them digitally. CEDR members can find labor law posters for every state in backstageHR and use the Vault to share them with employees - including some new federal posters that all employers need to update now.

Our advice? Leave this to the experts. We've seen a lot of employers attempt to do this themselves only to miss a major law and end up scrambling to get back into compliance later on.

Now for the human approach: There's no doubt allowing employees to work remotely has changed the way we hire and manage. The important thing to remember is that an employee working from home still functions the same as an in-office employee. They need to go through the same onboarding process that an in-person new hire would, fill out the same paperwork (don't forget there's a new I-9 form!), and go through the same training.

This also means that they need to be held to the same security standards, which is especially important if they're dealing with any protected health information. CEDR offers HIPAA training that is perfect for remote workers since it's all done online.

Of course, you also have to think about how you will monitor remote employees' performance and maintain communication with them. It can be difficult if not done properly, but it doesn’t have to be! Opening positions to remote employees can have a positive impact on your candidate pool. If you think a remote employee will be a good fit, it’s worth going through the steps to prepare to manage them properly. Remember to create a remote work policy that covers remote work guidelines and responsibilities. CEDR members can contact the Solution Center for this policy.

As a reminder to CEDR members, it's extremely important that you keep us updated on any new locations you acquire or remote employees that you hire so we can make sure you're receiving the correct law updates and policies for your size and location.

Am I required to provide bereavement leave?

The legal side of things: Up until recently, the answer would have been “no” across the board. That’s changed over the last couple of years, and now there are several states that require bereavement leave in some capacity.

Depending on where you’re located and how many employees you have, you may be required to provide anywhere from 5 to 14 days for bereavement. CEDR members can go to backstageHR to read about recent bereavement leave laws that several states have passed.

Bereavement leave laws are rather new, but with more and more states expanding time off benefits for employees, we wouldn’t be surprised if we see similar laws in other states soon. There’s no federal law that addresses bereavement, so if no state law applies, the decision to offer bereavement leave is entirely up to you.

Now for the human approach: It’s entirely possible to not offer any additional time off for bereavement and require employees to use their accrued vacation time or paid time off hours to cover their absence.

However, this is obviously a sensitive area. Being forced to use their paid time off benefits for something completely out of their control, and something they are likely already quite upset about, can result in a dip in morale. It can also put an employee in a position of having to forgo attending a funeral based on this additional outside factor, which again isn’t great for your ongoing relationship with them.

We find that most employers that we work with offer at least a couple of extra paid or unpaid days on top of any other time off employee benefits. Providing additional time off is a good way to show support during a difficult time. Note that this doesn't have to mean giving another bank of paid time off to your employee benefits package. Allowing them to take unpaid time off without being penalized allows the employee to take time if needed, without worrying about potentially using up PTO they may have been planning to use for something else.

While the most common reason for taking bereavement leave is to attend a funeral, it’s possible that an employee may want to use the time to attend a celebration of life later on, or to say their goodbyes rather than attend a service. Keep this in mind when you receive a request for time off.

Whatever policy you choose to implement, make sure it’s clearly detailed in your employee handbook and you apply it consistently.

Aug 29, 2023

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance based on applicable local, state and/or federal U.S. employment law that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

Share This