Vacation and Vacation/Holiday Policies

I am leaving for a vacation tomorrow for 8 days.  Heading to Poland to watch soccer with some good friends (Euro Championships).  Should be a blast.  I will have extremely limited email access (not bringing my laptop) and no phone.  I think I will just delete all emails received while I am away without reading them (and my out of office message will say that).  Likewise I am going to turn off my voice mail on my cell phone so no one can leave me messages.  Should be an interesting experiment.

Got me thinking about vacation and, in particular, holiday policies at startups.  I recently asked a friend of mine who is an employment lawyer about the rules.  Here is a run down:

1.  There is no obligation to pay anything extra to an employee for working on a holiday (unless, of course, the holiday work, plus other hours worked during that week, causes an “hourly” employee to work more than 40 hours in that week).  Paying extra for holidays is a typical policy in companies in which it is difficult to staff a holiday shift, but this is up to the company.

2.  There is no obligation to pay employees on designated holidays.  The holiday means only that the organization is not open on that day, and that there is no obligation to come to work.  Most companies do pay employees on designated holidays because it feels punitive to the employee to earn less in a pay period merely because there was a holiday.  And, of course, not having paid holidays is a recruitment disadvantage in many markets.  But, these are business reasons, not legal obligations.

3.  It is entirely within an employer’s discretion whether or not to have any holidays; which or how many holidays to observe; and what to pay for hours worked (or not worked) on a holiday — except, of course, that employees must earn at least minimum wage for all hours worked.

4.  It is entirely within the employer’s discretion whether to offer vacation days; how many vacation days to offer; whether to pay for vacation days or not; whether and how employees accrue vacation; whether or not employees can receive an advance against yet-to-be-accrued vacation; and/or whether to pay employees for accrued but unused vacation when they leave the company.

5.  However, if you do offer paid vacation, and you don’t want employees to be able to carryover vacation days from one year to the next and/or you don’t want employees to be paid for accrued but unused vacation when they leave you, then you MUST state that in a written policy that you can prove the employees received.

These are just some good holiday/vacation policy nuggets to keep in mind.  There are more.  As usual, consult a good lawyer!