Monday, September 17, 2007

Implement Fair and Equal Holidays

I don't know why I never posted this one. Interestingly, since I wrote this my company has reinstated Comp Time for the few employees that can take advantage of it. It wasn't the easiest task, but I had to do all of the programming to make that happen. I still think that workers would be better served by making a fair holiday schedule, or perhaps unlimited vacation like Netflix does. Originally this post was going to make a point about increasing productivity. I'm not going to make that point, but the concept of fair holidays seems reasonably argued...

The current corporate culture regarding employee holidays, in the U.S., is wrong and largely discriminatory. The prevailing thinking regarding holidays has not caught up with the progressive, inclusive, worker-oriented thinking of the modern office. The good news is that it can be changed. Read on to find out why and how.

What's wrong? I'm fine with the federal holidays.

I think that it can be safely assumed that everyone, shy of management, is a fan of paid holidays. The key word of that statement, though, is everyone. The current system of holidays that most companies employ is to give employees a popular set of federal holidays off as well as a few religious holidays.

Unfortunately, federal holidays don't hold the same value to every citizen, nor do religious holidays. Often one religions holiday schedule is fairly divergent to the next. Some religions have many important holidays that employees would like to spend with their family. Some holidays require the devout to observe a practice that conflicts with their ability to attend work or function in full capacity.

Can't they just take vacation? What about Comp Days?

Vacation is often the solution employees are forced to implement. How is that fair to them, though? That creates an inequality based on religion. Someone of a faith that aligns well with federal holidays and any others that the company chooses effectively gets all of their holidays paid as well as any vacation time. This means that they can vacation as they please and still spend important holidays with their friends and family. Workers who are forced to take paid holidays that do not match their religion must use vacation to compensate, which lessens their effective vacation time and limits their schedule.

Another solution has been to use compensatory, or "comp," time, to allow workers to pick which holidays they adhere to. There are a few problems with this, some new and some old.

To start with the old, we can look at the "closed office" phenomenon. Basically, each of these company holidays also designate a day when the offices of the company are closed, retail aside. This means that on these holidays everyone is expected to be away from the office. There are limited facilities on these days. The secretary won't be in, the HVAC may be off, and the doors may be locked. These things provide a challenge to an employee who wishes to work on these days. This likely leads to that person feeling that this is unwanted behavior, and often it is, which can make them choose not to work those days instead of going against the status quo.

The newer problem is that straight hour for hour compensatory time is, for most workers, illegal. It's difficult to properly implement. There's undue effort required of the company's HR department to track it. Worst of all, it still doesn't allow the required flexibility. At best you can offer this to any employees who fit into the narrow category of straight overtime pay. If you're feeling especially generous you can give this benefit to employees who are salaried, but at that point you're actually going well beyond your responsibilities and you still have the headache of tracking all of this.

For example, last Thursday marked the beginning of the Jewish holiday, Rosh HaShana, and the Muslim holiday, Ramadan. While I must admit to a lack of knowledge regarding Ramadan, I know enough about Rosh HaShana to say that most practicing Jewish people took the 13th and 14th off.

I work with a few of these people. I didn't ask what they did but we can assume that they either worked on Labor Day and Independence Day, the last two company holidays before these, or they took vacation time.

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