Combine the end of the year with a dismal economic outlook and a few extra days off without pay could come in handy for both employees and employers. Employees sneak in extra time off and companies save money. Sounds like a win – win situation.
Computer giant Dell is hoping that employees think this is a sweet suggestion. In an announcement last week Dell offered the option of up to five days off, without pay, before the end of January. Chief Executive Michael Dell informed employees of the plan in an email message. Dell communication stressed that taking unpaid time off is voluntary, but it would certainly contribute to cost cutting efforts. Dell has responded to a significant drop in demand with extensive layoffs.
If business looks grim, or the end of the year is just slow, offering unpaid time off might work for your company. I don’t recommend announcing such an option by email unless you are the size of Dell and your employees are used to receiving major announcements electronically. Deliver this kind of information in person so employees can ask questions. They will have questions.
Make an unpaid time off option more appealing by announcing that it will have no affect on benefits, including accrued time for future vacation eligibility. Allowing employees a few days off before or after Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years could be attractive especially if they know they will still earn their holiday pay. Identify the dates or time period that the option will be available and the maximum number of allowable unpaid days. Employees who ask for extended time off should be treated under a leave of absence policy.
Instruct employees to request this unpaid time off in writing. You don’t have to allow every unpaid vacation. Make decisions using the same parameters applied to regular paid time off. For many employers the earliest requests receive priority taking business requirements into account.
When an entire department applies for Christmas week off avoid the temptation to automatically say no. Ask the department head for a plan to ensure that the organization will not suffer from the closure. The week off could make the team happy and productive, spending more time on the job getting necessary work done than watching the clock and the candy bowl.