Fall is here and the 4th quarter of the year is underway. Retailers already have holiday decorations for sale. That means it is time to plan for the holidays.

This year Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are both on a Wednesday, which means many businesses will be closing early on each Tuesday and/or closing for the entire week between the two holidays. If you want your employees to save vacation or PTO days to use during those two holiday weeks, it is time to remind them to do so.

Some best practices for holiday season planning include:

  1. Clarify which days are paid holidays (if any) and which days are not.
  2. Remind employees to submit vacation/PTO requests for any days that are not paid holidays and not to assume they will be given all of the requested time off (especially if your business is busy during that time).
  3. Respond to those vacation/PTO requests promptly, and in writing, so there is no confusion as to whether the time off request was granted.
  4. Remember that you have to pay exempt employees for the entire work week even if they only work a small part of it. If you want them to save vacation/PTO days to use at the holidays, then remind them now how many days they need to save up if they want to be sure to have those days off.
  5. If you pay out accrued vacation/PTO at year end, don’t pay it early! If you do, you could be stuck paying exempt employees for extra days.
  6. If your business is closing during the holiday weeks, and your plan is not to pay employees for that time if they don’t have any accrued vacation/PTO to use, then give them notice of that now so they can plan ahead.

Finally, one related issue. If you plan to give a holiday gift that has any monetary value (such as a gift card, gift certificate, cash, or even a turkey/ham), be careful! Many plaintiffs’ attorneys are claiming that such “gifts” are really not “discretionary” and are therefore a type of compensation that must be included in the employees’ regular rate of pay for overtime purposes. So, the best gift of all may simply be a very warm and genuine communication wishing your employees a happy holiday season!