In this week’s edition of the HR Base Camp roundup, we answer some of our most commonly asked questions during the holiday season, specifically regarding paid holidays and requiring advance notice for time off requests. Plus, we tell you how to prepare for the day when you might need to let an employee go. Read on for more information!
- My employees say I’m required to provide holiday pay for office closures that are on recognized federal holidays. Is this true?
- Can I deny an employee’s time off request if it’s not requested in advance?
- What steps do I need to take to prepare for a termination?
My employees say I’m required to provide holiday pay for office closures that are on recognized federal holidays. Is this true?
Not quite! Your employees may be under the impression that anything “federal” requires pay, or they may have heard or read about other workplaces always closing for holidays. , With very few exceptions, neither state nor federal law requires private businesses (meaning non-government) to do anything whatsoever for holidays.. The truth is that the decisions on closing the office and providing holiday pay is solely up to you and what your handbook policy says.
There’s no federal requirement to close or pay for a holiday. This means you can choose which holidays to close for and which to pay for, if any. Do you want to close for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, but only pay employees for Christmas? That’s okay! Do you want to provide holiday pay but only to full time employees? That works too! Or maybe you don’t want to pay for holiday closures at all. It’s up to you. The important thing is that you have a handbook policy in place detailing these benefits and that you’re applying the same policy consistently to all of your employees and tracking time correctly for exempt vs. non-exempt employees.
Can I deny an employee’s time off request if it’s not requested in advance?
Your handbook policy should set the standard for these types of decisions. Most employers have guidelines for how far in advance time off must be requested. In general, there’s no issue in denying a request if it’s for purely personal / recreational reasons. You need to be able to schedule a full staff and make sure your business can operate smoothly, and sometimes a last minute request makes that difficult. But before you deny a request, there’s several factors you should consider.
Like we said, vacation requests can typically be denied with no issue. However, once that request veers into protected leave territory, it can be much riskier to deny it. Is there a state mandated protected leave law in place? If the employee qualifies for this, you need to ensure you’re following the policies dictated by the law. For example, many sick leave laws state that employees should try to give as much advance notice as possible of the need for leave, but if that’s not possible, letting you know as soon as they’re aware is acceptable. This means if an employee qualifies for sick leave and puts in the request the night before their shift, denying the last minute request would violate the sick leave law. Unfortunately, it can be easy to fall out of compliance with these laws. Even if the employee is out of protected leave time or is not yet eligible, it’s worth it to carefully review the details of the relevant protected leave policy before denying a request.
But even if there is no specific legal protection surrounding the time off request, as business owners and managers we need to remember that the unexpected can and will happen. If someone is saying they’re too sick to work, you probably don’t want them coming in and potentially infecting the rest of your team and your patients. And if someone has a medical issue pop up, getting the first available medical appointment they can is going to be very important to them.
All this means is that there needs to be a careful balance between policy and practicality; showing your team they need to follow the rules, but that you also care about what’s going on with them as individuals. A good point of reference is considering how you have handled similar requests in the past. If you’ve granted other employees’ last minute requests and the staffing and scheduling situation is the same, what is the reason for denying this employee’s request?
What steps do I need to take to prepare for a termination?
We’ll start by saying that no two terminations are the same and we strongly advise conducting a risk assessment with an HR expert for each individual termination. That being said, there are some general guidelines that stay pretty much the same for any standard termination. Keep in mind this guidance can change depending on the circumstances.
As with any HR process, documentation is key. The more documentation you have that supports your reasoning for letting them go, the better shape you’ll be in. You’ll need to review your state’s final paycheck rules and contact your payroll company to arrange their final pay. As soon as the separation is done, take care of all the administrative tasks – removing them from your systems, canceling benefits, etc.
The hardest part is actually conducting the termination. This can be an upsetting and awkward situation, especially if the employee isn’t expecting it. Make sure there is a witness in the room with you and plan what you will say ahead of time. The employee may get emotional and have a lot of questions, so it’s best to do it in a private area where they can feel as comfortable as possible.
To reiterate – this is general guidance. Each termination comes with its own history and unique details. That’s why we always advise our members to contact the Solution Center before terminating an employee, and we walk them through the entire process in order to identify any issues. If the employee belongs to any protected classes or has recently engaged in protected activity, the risk of terminating is much higher. We’ll also review any relevant state laws and provide all the necessary paperwork. For a detailed list of the steps to take before separating, download our free termination checklist.
At CEDR, we help employers protect their businesses and build stronger teams. Because stronger teams build better workplaces, and better workplaces make better lives.
Have an HR question you need to talk through with an HR expert? Reach out to the Solution Center for expert guidance, or get your questions answered in our private, professional Facebook Group, HR Base Camp.