Q&A: Should Our Office Close for the Holidays?

By Randy MyersBusiness on Main

If business is slow between Christmas and New Year’s, should the office be closed to allow employees to spend extra time with their family and friends?

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Holidays can be hectic, so many of your employees would probably welcome some time off before charging into the new year. But consider the ramifications for them and your business. If this is going to be a paid leave, great, you’re a wonderful boss. Unpaid? Your employees could resent losing a week’s pay just as holiday bills are coming due, sinking office morale.

Customers are important, too. If yours can live without you for a week, fine. If not, you’ll have to make alternate arrangements to service them. Depending upon the type of business you run, someone in your shop or warehouse might be able to field inquiries. Or, you could have calls forwarded to your phone.

Also consider running your plans past an employment attorney. Corey Franklin, with the Lowenbaum Partnership law firm in Clayton, Missouri, notes that there are a host of state and local statutes across the country that could be applicable to your impromptu shutdown, depending upon where you’re located.

If the closing counts as a layoff in your jurisdiction, you could become immediately liable for paying out any accrued vacation benefits or sick leave your employees have accumulated. Union collective bargaining agreements may include similar requirements. You’ll also want to know if your employees could collect unemployment compensation for their time off, assuming you’re not paying their salaries.

There is, of course, precedent for this sort of thing. Some manufacturers schedule plant shutdowns every year to handle maintenance and upgrades. “Employees often build their vacations around scheduled shutdowns,” Franklin notes.

If you do decide to close, make a note to schedule it in advance next year. “For any action like this, it’s always better to plan ahead,” says Renee Fellman, a business turnaround specialist in Portland, Oregon. “If people were going to have time off, they would probably like to know in advance so they could schedule a vacation or make other plans.”

What do you think?

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