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As a Boston Metro small business owner, you might feel pressured or uncertain when it comes to the holiday season. Your employees may have an expectant gleam in their eye, hopeful of holiday bonuses. You may have competitors who throw lavish employee parties for their employees. Then you have the question of what gesture is appropriate in this sensitive day and age. After all, when coffee chains cannot design a holiday cup without causing controversy, who can blame you for some “Bah, humbug?”

Fortunately, we have some great suggestions, courtesy of Entrepreneur magazine, and some ideas of our own!

1. Any gesture is better than no gesture. While there’s always a person or two who cannot be pleased no matter what, the majority of your staff will appreciate your thoughtfulness. Don’t let the negative nellies ruin it for everyone.

2. Make a gesture you can afford to live up to each year. The holiday season is about traditions. Create your own!

3. Be sincere in your gesture. A small cash bonus in a hand-written card, with honest words of individual appreciation, goes farther than you think.

4. Know your labor laws. Private employers are not legally required to provide paid holidays to non-exempt employees. However, if you close for a holiday, exempt employees must receive their full salary as long as they work any part of the workweek. In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, certain employers may be required to provide premium pay to non-exempt employees who work on a holiday.

5. Decide what type of holiday bonus is best. There are two types of bonuses: discretionary and nondiscretionary. Some employers provide nondiscretionary bonuses, announced to employees in advance to encourage them to work more efficiently and/or to remain with the company. With this bonus, employees expect that if they meet certain criteria they will get a bonus. A discretionary bonus is not announced in advance and is not tied to meeting certain criteria. Remember that most bonuses must be factored into an employee’s regular rate of pay when determining overtime.

6. Have a clear time-off policy. Provide employees with instructions for requesting time off and clearly communicate how vacations will be granted (based on scheduling needs, seniority, first-come first-served or a combination of these factors). Some employers see a rise in unscheduled absences before and after a company holiday. To help address this, consider encouraging non-exempt employees to work the day before and after a holiday to receive holiday pay (unless the time off was scheduled in advance). Also, consider incentives to help limit unscheduled absences, such as an extra vacation day to employees who work during less desirable times or who meet certain attendance and punctuality benchmarks.

7. Plan your holiday party wisely. If you host the party during work hours, employees will be entitled to pay for time spent at the party. And if attendance is mandatory, regardless of where and when the party takes place, such time may also be considered hours worked.

Consider consulting legal counsel regarding the potential liability for serving alcohol at company events. If alcoholic beverages will be served, limit intake. Check with your insurance provider to determine what your coverage and liabilities may be during the party.

Most of all, have your heart in it! You don’t need to play Santa, but this is your opportunity to strengthen rapport with your team and get to know them better. Enjoy yourself. Have fun with whatever gesture you decide to make.

We hope these ideas are helpful to you! And when you need information about buying or leasing Boston Metro commercial real estate, we can help you find the ideal property. Please contact us today for expert guidance!

Jay Nuss
Jay Nuss Realty Group, LLC
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