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© Rnl | - Long Weekend Ahead Photo

Long Weekends in Lieu of Vacations?

© Rnl | - Long Weekend Ahead PhotoWe’re about to embark on a long holiday weekend. Many start the long weekend today because tomorrow, December 25, is a federal holiday. Throughout the year, there are several pre-made long weekends because of federal holidays.  For many small business owners, these long weekends are the only time they decouple from work. But what about scheduling for employees? Here are some thoughts on the subject.

“No-vacation nation”

That’s the term given to the United States in a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research on vacation time in developed countries.

To quote from the introduction:

“The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation. European countries establish legal rights to at least 20 days of paid vacation per year, with legal requirements of 25 and even 30 or more days in some countries. Australia and New Zealand both require employers to grant at least 20 vacation days per year; Canada and Japan mandate at least 10 paid days off.”

There is no requirement for private sector employers to give workers time off for federal holidays.

Unlimited vacation time?

There are some well-known companies, including GE, Netflix, and LinkedIn, that offer unlimited time off to their staff. They do it in order to retain valued employees who might otherwise jump ship to another company.

Crafting your vacation policy

Because no paid time off is required by law, the policy is in your hands. There are several factors that come into play when deciding how much time off to grant employees. These include:

  • What can the company afford?
  • Does the business lend itself to having other employees fill in when someone is off?
  • What are your competitors offering their staff?
  • What do you think is right?

My take

To start, while small businesses aren’t mandated to give paid time off (PTO), they really should to be supportive of their staff and be attractive to prospective employees. I think owners should take a comprehensive view of time off policy to include sick days, personal days, and vacation days.

It may make sense to lump all time off into one policy by allowing employees to accrue a set number of days of paid time off; they can use the time for any purpose (e.g., a sick day, going to a child’s school play, taking a vacation). This gives the employee flexibility in how to use the time off and ends the need for someone to bring in a doctor’s note for a sick day.

Even better, allow workers to accrue paid vacation days they can use for any purpose. But also allow unlimited paid sick days. By executive order earlier this year, those doing business with the federal government must allow workers to earn up to seven sick days per year. And some states are mandating a certain number of paid sick leave.

Here’s why I favor unlimited sick days for small businesses: When someone is ill or injured, more than just a few days may be needed to recover, and returning to work too soon because of the need for a paycheck can harm the worker and spread germs to the rest of the staff. It’s been my experience that in small companies, where employees become somewhat like families, no one will take advantage of this generous policy. Doing so puts a burden on others in the “family.” And the person likely isn’t sick each year, or at the same time as other workers. Of course, if someone does abuse the unlimited sick leave policy, he or she can always be terminated.

You know your company best, so it’s up to you to create the time-off policy that suits your situation. Enjoy the long weekend!