Employers: Make a List, Check it Twice for Holidays

Posted by Tom Jones on Nov 5, 2013 10:34:00 AM

Ho, ho, ho, it’s that time of year again and employers throughout Massachusetts are wondering how to survive the holiday season.

Office.PartyIt’s a busy time - employers may provide up to six legal holidays from November 11 to February 17, some of which are likely to be coupled with adjoining days off. Several religious holidays fall in the same period, along with an overlap of the heaviest part of winter.  All of these factors could have a disruptive impact on your operation.

Here is a checklist to help your company prepare for the season, as well as for the inevitable questions or concerns that may be posed by your employees and/or management team.  As the Boy Scouts say, be prepared.

Holiday week shut-downs

  • What is your policy?  Are your employees clear on the particulars?
  • Do you require mandatory use of paid time off?
  • What does it mean for positions that remain staffed during shut-down?
  • How will you keep in contact with employees during shut-down?

Wage and Hour issues

  • Do you allow for holiday pay?
  • What about new employees and part-timers?
  • Does paid holiday time count toward overtime?
  • Can employees take unpaid time-off during holiday weeks?


  • Do you have an established bad-weather policy? How is it communicated to employees? 
  • The law governing show-up pay calls for three hours pay or pay for all hours worked  if an employee who expected to work a shift is sent home early. Are your managers aware of this?
  • What is your emergency communications practice? How is the call-in number distributed?
  • What is your pay practice in the event of an emergency shut-down/delay?


  • Do you have policy on employees taking holiday adjoining days off?
  • Do you require overtime during holiday weeks?
  • Do you provide for paid time off as a gesture of appreciation versus something tangible like a gift card?


  • How do you handle vendor/customer gifts to employees? Do employees know what to do in the event of a gift from a customer/vendor?
  • Are employees expected to give gifts to customers?
  • Do you allow or discourage employee and boss gift exchanges?
  • Does the company provide employees with gifts/bonuses and have you researched the payroll tax implications?


  • Do you allow casual dress around the holidays?
  • Does your dress code define appropriate and inappropriate clothing?


  • Does your holiday party include alcohol? Have you considered safety strategies?
  •  Have you considered inviting spouses and/or children to build your team from a personal perspective?
  • Have you reminded employees that the harassment policy applies to all work-related social events?
  • Have you let your company’s business conditions guide the tone and scale of the celebration?

Religious accommodations

  • Massachusetts law calls for employees to provide 10 days notice of need for time off due to religious holiday. Many employers in practice don’t require this. Is your practice consistent with all employees?
  • Have you considered the possible impact of religious decorations in your workplace?

Wellness & Safety

  • Has the company encouraged employees to get flu shots? Do you offer flu-shot discounts? Do you communicate the availability of shots at nearby locations?
  • Has the company promoted hand washing through education/postings?
  • Have you surveyed the exterior of your building to avoid ice- and snow-related injuries.

Use this checklist as a starting point to prepare for the holiday season. If you have more detailed questions about anything on the checklist, please contact the AIM Employer Hotline at 1-800-470-6277. And be on the lookout for the 2014 AIM Legal Holidays calendar, which is now arriving at member companies.

Topics: Employment Law, Massachusetts employers, Human Resources

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