For many, this is the most wonderful time of the year. But when it comes to the workplace, the holidays can be tricky—and risky—for employers. Here are four tips to keep the season merry and bright for you and your workers.

Be Fair with Bonuses

If you’ve awarded bonuses in the past, chances are that employees expect you’ll do so again. When that’s not the case, be sure to let employees know well ahead of time and offer something else to show your appreciation like an extra day off. If you plan to issue holiday bonuses, understand that they can be a great motivation tool—if done right—so think carefully about how to structure them. Some options are to issue a flat dollar amount to all employees, an amount based on an individual’s salary, or a goal- or performance-based bonus instead.

Whatever direction you choose, make the bonuses equitable among peer groups and recognize all employees in some way so no one feels overlooked. For more tips on awarding bonuses, watch our video.

Reduce Party Liability

While some companies have eliminated office holiday parties altogether to eliminate risk, others are keeping the tradition alive. If you’re scheduling an event this year, minimize the chance of negative consequences by serving plenty of food and limiting alcohol by using drink tickets, setting a drink maximum or only serving wine and beer. That way, you’ll reduce the likelihood of drunk driving, falls or injuries to others. And to keep discrimination claims at bay, make sure your employee handbook is updated with the appropriate anti-sexual harassment policies so attendees understand exactly what behavior’s acceptable—and what’s not.

Know the Price Tag of Gifts

Many employers give employees year-end presents and/or arrange gift exchanges among employees. But not everyone necessarily wants to get in on the action. Why? The IRS considers any amount transferred from an employer to an employee part of the individual’s gross income. Fortunately, de minimis fringe benefits like gifts that are small in value are excluded. However, cash gifts aren’t and must be treated as taxable income. Another thing to consider with gifts is to keep them secular and gender-neutral. Lastly, if you organize a swap, be sure to make it voluntary by asking employees to opt-in (rather than out), set dollar limits, and make sure the exchange is appropriate for the workplace.

Staff Smartly

Understandably, you’ll get multiple requests for time off around the holidays. While it’s important to consider employees’ desire to prepare, travel or simply spend time with family and friends, you’ll need to balance their interests with those of the business. There are several ways to approach staffing this time of year, including setting a first-come, first-served policy to encourage early requests so you can plan ahead, having part-time staffers pitch in if you need extra help, offering a pay differential or time off at a later date, and allowing employees to work from home. Just remember to communicate your policies and apply them consistently.

For more information on these issues or other HR questions you may have this time of year, contact Complete Payroll Solutions at 888-865-4470.

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