Employers’ Holiday Spirits Up This Year

December 11, 2012 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – A survey suggests that more employers are offering generous holiday schedules, holiday parties, bonuses, and charitable events compared with previous post-recession holiday seasons.

More than half (58%) of employers surveyed by Bloomberg BNA have scheduled at least three paid days off for the 2012 to 2013 holiday season.This is compared with about two in five employers for 2011 to 2012 (42%) and 2010 to 2011 (36%), when Christmas and New Year’s Day fell on a weekend. More than half of responding employers (51%) have slated Monday, December 24, as a paid day off.

The vast majority of surveyed manufacturing firms (85%) will grant three or more paid days off during the upcoming holiday season, compared with just half of both nonmanufacturing companies (52%) and nonbusiness organizations (51%), such as hospitals, schools and government agencies. Nearly two-thirds of companies with fewer than 1,000 employees (65%) have scheduled three or more paid days off during the 2012 to 2013 holiday season; less than half of larger employers (48%) will do so.

Furthermore, the survey found nearly four in 10 establishments will require at least a few employees to work on Christmas, New Year’s Day, or both. Christmas work shifts have been slated by 34% of the employers, while slightly more (38%) will have workers on duty for New Year’s Day.

Forty-five percent of organizations will distribute gifts or bonuses to some or all employees in 2012 to 2013, virtually unchanged from a year ago (46%) but well above the record low of 33% in 2009, when the recession came to its official close. Management and nonmanagement are equally likely to receive holiday cash or gifts from employers, and money still trumps merchandise as year-end expressions of company gratitude. However, more than three in four responding organizations (77%) impose formal rules on gift acceptance from clients and associates, including one-quarter that ban gifts entirely.

Holiday celebrations are to be held by three in four surveyed establishments (74%), somewhat improved from 2009, when 67% sponsored these parties. Companywide events are planned by more than half of the responding employers (55%), virtually unchanged from a year ago (56%) and up a bit from 2009 (50%). Among those sponsoring festivities for the entire work force, 86% will foot the entire bill, while 48% will allow employees to invite guests.

Alcohol will be served at nearly two out of three events (63%), an increase from 2011 to 2012 (55%) and 2010 to 2011 (56%). Of the organizations serving beer, wine, or liquor at their year-end events, 84% reported at least one safeguard to prevent excessive consumption or protect guests. Many reported multiple precautions, including time limits, cab service and discounted hotel rates.

Regarding charitable activities, more than three in five establishments (63%) will sponsor such events around year's end; most of those firms will participate in multiple programs and activities. Forty percent of employers will sponsor toy collections for needy children; 37% will sponsor food collections and distribution. Clothing drives are planned by one in five surveyed employers, and nearly as many (16%) will sponsor money collections.