The Nitty Gritty: Holiday Pay and Time Off

Today, we’re going to take a quick look at one of the most confusing topics in HR and benefits management: holiday pay and time off.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve reviewed your company’s policy regarding time off and holiday pay, you should set aside some time to do so to make sure your policy and practices are up-to-date and in compliance with both federal and state law. In the meantime, here are some quick answers to pressing questions that can help you get started.

Many employers wonder if they’re required to provide time off for a holiday. Although not generally required by federal or state law, many employers choose to grant employees time off for certain holidays or to close the business altogether on those days.

However, keep in mind that companies with 15 or more employees are subject to federal religious discrimination laws, and may need to allow employees time off for religious observance. You should also consult your state’s nondiscrimination laws, because some states provide similar protections for employees of even smaller companies.

Now, let’s look at pay. Again, federal law and most state laws do not require employers to pay employees if time off for holidays is granted. Whether or not employees are paid for holidays is generally a matter of company policy. However, you need to be careful when it comes to exempt employees. As a general rule, if an exempt employee performs any work during a workweek, he or she must be paid the full salary amount.

When an employee works on a holiday, granting extra compensation…above and beyond the regular rate of pay…is generally a matter of company policy. Of course, you must be sure to comply with any specific state law requirements regarding holiday pay. Although some companies pay employees at a special rate, such as time-and-a-half, for holiday shifts, generally an employee is only entitled to his or her regular pay, plus any overtime.

Remember that states will generally enforce an employer’s written policy regarding holiday pay, so it’s important to follow company policy and to apply the rules consistently and fairly to all employees. For questions about the specific requirements in your state, contact your state labor department or a knowledgeable employment law attorney.

5 Tips for a Successful Holiday Party

At many companies, the annual office holiday party is a time-honored tradition. Whether it’s big or small, lavish or simple, your holiday party is more than just an end-of-year celebration. It’s a great opportunity to gather your employee for recreation, motivation, team building, and recognition. Indeed, your company party can shape both your reputation and corporate culture–and it doesn’t need to break the bank. With careful planning, you can throw a memorable event even on a limited budget.

Making your company holiday party a success comes down to a few simple steps:

First, plan early and communicate the date and time to your employees. You likely want to avoid the latter half of December, when many employees take unused vacation time or have family plans. Bypassing the end of the month also helps accommodate any sales or reporting deadlines, and may make it easier for out-of-town employees to attend. Be sure to consider the travel requirements of any off-site employees as you’re scheduling. You might also check with relevant managers and department heads to see if they’d like to fold in meetings or training for out-of-area employees to capitalize on their time in the home office. Other things to consider, depending on your budget and wishes, are a day vs. nighttime event, whether you’ll host on- or off-site, and whether your party will be limited to employees only or will include spouses, significant others, or family.

Next, get creative. You need not be confined by the traditional cocktail event or sit-down dinner. Think about hosting your party at a museum, or take a “field trip” to a popular concert or show. Hire a local chef to host a mini cooking class for your team, or engage a stand-up comic to perform during the meal. Alternatively, you might opt for a family event such as a bowling party or a make-your-own pizza outing at a local restaurant. If families are in the mix, have plenty of kid-friendly activities such as crafts, face painting, or cookie decorating on hand. And don’t forget the photo ops, with a dedicated photographer on-site or a photo booth stocked with colorful props. While the possibilities are endless, a simple gathering also works–a team that typically toils at their desks through the lunch hour will appreciate being taken out for a leisurely meal at a nice restaurant.

Third, make time for team building. Having your employees together is a great time to engage in a few fun activities that foster teamwork and bonding. You can divide guests into groups for a short trivia competition; play some party or ice-breaker games; and award small gift cards or other prizes (such as a preferred parking spot) to the winners. Some companies choose to award bonuses or gifts in conjunction with the holiday party, but even without these, the holiday party is an ideal time to recognize your employees and personally thank them for their dedication and hard work.

Also remember to focus on food and fun. Whether it’s formal or casual, make sure your party is one you personally would want to attend. In every case, this means making sure you have enough food and drink, with a variety of options to accommodate dietary restrictions and potential allergies. Depending on your venue, music can also add to your event. If space and budget allow, set up a dance floor and hire a professional DJ to keep the party moving.

Lastly, serve alcohol safely. If you want to minimize the chance of over-consumption, skip the traditional open bar. Instead, provide a limited number of cocktail tickets then move to a cash bar. You can also offer only beer and wine, which have lower alcohol contents. Of course, you should also be sure to offer a nice variety of non-alcoholic drink options, and stop serving alcohol at least an hour before the party ends. Finally, whether the party is at the office or off premises, provide alternative transportation home via a cab or car service to anyone who has had too much to drink to help minimize your liability in the event of an accident.

For any HR questions, head over to our home page and submit an information request!

3 Tax Recordkeeping Tips for Employers

You may not give much thought to doing your taxes outside of tax season, but some of the expenses you pay during the year might qualify for money-saving tax credits or deductions come tax time. If you organize your tax records now, you’ll make tax filing easier and faster when you do them next year. It also helps reduce the chance that you’ll lose a receipt or statement that you need.

1. Save Business Records

  • Gross receipts are the income you receive from your business. You should keep supporting documents that show the amounts and sources of your gross receipts.
  • Purchases are the items you buy and resell to customers. Your supporting documents should show the amount paid and that the amount was for purchases.
  • Expenses are the costs you incur (other than purchases) to carry on your business. Your supporting documents should show the amount paid and that the amount was for a business expense.
  • Assets are the property, such as machinery and furniture, that you own and use in your business. You need records to compute the annual depreciation and the gain or loss when you sell the assets.

Such records may include cash register tapes, bank deposit slips, receipt books, and purchase and sales invoices. These records may also include credit card receipts, sales slips, canceled checks, account statements, and petty cash slips.

2. Keep Employment Tax Records

The following information should be available for IRS review:

  • Your employer identification number;
  • Amounts and dates of all wage, annuity, and pension payments;
  • Amounts of tips reported;
  • The fair market value of in-kind wages paid;
  • Names, addresses, social security numbers, and occupations of employees and recipients;
  • Any employee copies of Form W-2 that were returned to you as undeliverable;
  • Dates of employment;
  • Periods for which employees and recipients were paid while absent due to sickness or injury and the amount and weekly rate of payments you or third-party payers made to them;
  • Copies of employees’ and recipients’ income tax withholding allowance certificates;
  • Dates and amounts of tax deposits you made;
  • Copies of returns filed;
  • Records of allocated tips; and
  • Records of fringe benefits provided, including substantiation.

3. Store and Organize Your Records

Business owners should generally keep all employment-related tax records for at least 4 years after the tax is due, or after the tax is paid, whichever is later. The length of time you should keep other documents depends on the action, expense, or event the document records.

The IRS doesn’t require any special method to keep records, but it’s a good idea to keep them organized and in one place. This will make it easier for you to prepare and file a complete and accurate return. You’ll also be better able to respond if there are questions about your tax return after you file.

Business owners should review IRS Publication 583Starting a Business and Keeping Records. Video and audio files explaining recordkeeping requirements are also available at

Are You Accommodating Your Religious or Disabled Employees?

In the modern workplace, we are fortunate to embrace diversity in many forms. In all likelihood, your company or organization employs individuals of many different backgrounds and abilities. At times, these differences may require what is known as an accommodation–a change in the work environment (or in the way things are usually done) that enables an employee to perform the duties of his or her job while respecting the employee’s disability or religious beliefs or practices.

Accommodating an individual with a disability or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance is more than just good management; it’s the law. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination by employers with 15 or more employees in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, pay, and benefits. It also requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability, unless that accommodation would result in undue hardship to the employer’s operations. Small employers may be subject to similar requirements under state law, so be sure to familiarize yourself with any state-specific nondiscrimination laws that may apply.

Also on the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in the workplace by employers with 15 or more employees on the basis of an individual’s religion (or lack of religious belief), and requires covered employers to reasonably accommodate an employee whose sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance conflicts with a work requirement, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the business. Again, it is important to comply with any state-specific religious nondiscrimination laws that may apply to smaller employers.

Let’s talk for a moment about the term “reasonable accommodation.” According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency responsible for enforcing the ADA and Title VII, a modification or adjustment is reasonable if it appears to be “feasible” or “plausible.” An accommodation also must be effective in enabling the individual to perform the essential functions of the job and to enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment.

Under the ADA, reasonable accommodations for a disability may include such things as making existing facilities accessible; job restructuring; part-time or modified work schedules; acquiring or modifying equipment; changing tests, training materials, or policies; providing qualified readers or interpreters; and reassignment to a vacant position. This can include such things as assisted reading devices for employees with low vision; stools or seating for employees who become fatigued; or installation of TTY devices for the hearing impaired.

Reasonable accommodations for religious practice might include allowing flexible schedules to enable religious observance; changing an employee’s job tasks if a particular belief conflicts with a task; making exceptions to dress and grooming rules; allowing the use of work facilities for religious observances; and accommodating religious expression in the workplace.

Now let’s discuss the phrase “undue hardship.” The EEOC applies a different standard for undue hardship under the ADA than for religious accommodation. In general, for disability accommodations, undue hardship means significant difficulty or expense. Undue hardship refers not only to financial difficulty, but to reasonable accommodations that are unduly extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or those that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business. An employer must assess on a case-by-case basis whether a particular reasonable accommodation would cause undue hardship.

Under Title VII, the undue hardship defense to providing religious accommodation requires a showing that the proposed accommodation in a particular case poses a “more than de minimis” cost or burden. Costs to be considered include not only direct monetary costs but also the burden on the conduct of the employer’s business. For example, courts have found undue hardship where the accommodation diminishes efficiency in other jobs, infringes on other employees’ job rights or benefits, impairs workplace safety, or causes co-workers to carry the accommodated employee’s share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.

While each case is unique, employees may request an ADA or religious accommodation at any time during the employment process. No special language is needed, and the request need not be in writing–a conversation will suffice. The manager or employer should respond promptly, and engage the employee in an informal dialogue where the needs and request are discussed. In certain instances the employer may need to request more information from the employee, such as details about religious observances or reasonable documentation when the employee’s disability or the need for accommodation is not obvious.

In most cases, from both a legal and managerial standpoint, it is well worth an employer’s effort to attempt to accommodate an employee, as most accommodations are low-cost and yield considerable benefits. In fact, according to the Job Accommodation Network, more than half of all accommodations for disability cost nothing, and of those that do cost money, the typical one-time expenditure is $500.

How to Deny a Time Off Request

Whether paid or unpaid, time off is an important respite that allows your employees to take vacations; attend to personal or family business; or simply rest and recharge. However, managers and employees alike must recognize that not every request for time off can be approved. Of course, most managers would like to accommodate their employees, but some businesses demand coverage during typical holiday or vacation periods. There may also be specific times during the year—for example, the end of quarters or fiscal periods—when a company needs to be fully staffed.

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Communicate Attendance Policy to Employees

These expectations should be clearly spelled out in your attendance policy, together with the amount of sick, personal, and vacation time allotted to employees and procedures for taking that time, including any time off that may be required by federal or state law. Clarify how far in advance employees must notify their supervisors of their intention to take time off, and whether those requests will be approved based on corporate or departmental needs. For example, even if your office closes early on Friday afternoons in the summer, you will likely still need someone on site to answer phones, accept deliveries, and respond to client emergencies.

Your time off policy should be articulated in both the employee handbook as well as on the company’s internal web site, or intranet, if one exists. You should also communicate in writing any variances to the time off policy that apply to specific departments or positions. When hired, employees should sign a written acknowledgement that they have received and read the handbook, to be placed in the individual employee’s personnel file.

Comply with Federal and State Law

When considering whether to grant an employee’s time off request, it is necessary to comply with applicable federal and state laws regarding time off and nondiscrimination. For example, employers covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, must provide eligible employees with unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons, including certain family military leave entitlements. The FMLA provides specific procedures and notice requirements for both employers and employees when it comes to requests for time off.

For employers covered by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, permitting the use of accrued paid leave, or unpaid leave, is a form of reasonable accommodation when necessitated by an employee’s disability. In general, the ADA requires that covered employers make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship. An employer does not have to provide paid leave beyond that which is provided to similarly-situated employees.

Certain employers may also need to grant time off requests in order to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, as required under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In addition to federal requirements, many states and cities also have laws requiring that certain employers allow employees to be absent from work, either with or without pay, due to specified circumstances. These laws may grant employees expanded or additional rights above the federal requirements, or they may be preempted by the federal law. As a result, employers in certain instances may be required to comply with only the federal law, only the state law, or both. If there is any question as to which law applies to a particular employer or situation, the employer should contact a knowledgeable employment law attorney or contact its state labor department for specific guidance.

Examples of state-specific laws regarding time off include family and medical leave; paid or unpaid sick leave; disability and other nondiscrimination laws; military leave; jury duty, crime, and witness leaves; leave to donate organs or blood; and leave to participate in school or day care activities for an employee’s children.

As you manage your employees’ requests for time off, also consider whether a flexible work option might be a good fit for your company. Flexible work hours can minimize inconvenient time off requests, and help managers plan for extra coverage during busy times. Upfront communication about expectations and schedules is key to making flexible arrangements work.

If Leave Must Be Denied

Time off requests must still on occasion be denied. If you are in that position, be empathetic and fair. Have your conversation with the employee in private, not in front of peers or colleagues. If appropriate, explain your reasons for denying the request. Listen to the employee’s needs and concerns, and attempt to find a resolution that works for the employee, the department, and the organization. Finally, remember to follow all applicable laws, and apply those laws and your company policies consistently and fairly among all employees.

Introducing: Pumpkin Spice Payroll

Well, it’s that time of year.

The branches and walnuts crunching pleasurably beneath your boots on your way into work. Tossing on that grey sweater over an argyl collared shirt while cradling a venti pumpkin-spiced latte and relishing the fresh October morning. And as you take your next sip sitting at your desk, you realize… it’s time to run payroll… and you wish it were Pumpkin Spice.

Execupay is proud to launch the next generation of Payroll, sure to be a disruptor in our industry, Pumpkin Spice Payroll V10.31. With exciting new features such as basic and easy to understand icons, a new warm layer of autumn scents and colours in the User Interface and prints, and new one click Pumpkin Spice ordering button, you’ll be running Payroll in yoga pants in no time.

When we were developing the new Pumpkin Spice Payroll product, we literally couldn’t even. “With great new job titles available in our drop down at your finger tips, such as ‘Autumnal Ambassador’,  ‘Mr. Fall’, or ‘the walking, talking essence of the Northern Hemisphere’s annual tilt away from the sun’, you’ll be able to capture your new employees spirits any time of the year,” says Dave Cashwell, lead developer of Spice Development, “and in version 11.13, you’ll be able to choose ‘down jacket with a fur-trimmed hood’ as a uniform selection.”

The real feature here however is the new “1-Click PnPSL” button. Short for ‘One Click Payroll and Pumpkin Spice Latte’, you can run your payroll and have a pumpkin spice latte delivered to you, right at your desk.  With Pumpkin Spice Payroll v10.31, you’ll be snuggling up on the couch sipping hot apple cider and watching You’ve Got Mail on DVD before you know it. You’ll also have more time to spend part of the weekend meeting up with your friends to watch fall sports and eat fall snacks.

When speaking to one of our customers during the beta launch of the product, Janice from CedarHR said, “You’ve really got to taste, I mean really taste, the Payroll to enjoy it. They even flavor their envelop strips like Pumpkin Spice. Execupay really pulled out all the stops. Get it before it’s December, and we all know that’ll be here before ya know it.”

What’s next for Execupay? We’re currently in the planning phase of Peppermint Mocha HR v12.25, coming Christmas Morning.

Try it today. One of our PSL Specialists will be glad to take you through it’s many features and functionalities from time keeping, direct deposit, employee self service, 401k and more.

Schedule a Demo

If you have any questions about Pumpkin Spice Payroll or it’s features, please reach out directly,

Travis Bjorklund
Director of Marketing
Execupay, Inc.

(PS: Pumpkin Spice Payroll isn’t real, we’re just having some fun, but Execupay’s award winning Payroll is. Head to the link above for a demo or to to learn more)

5 Tips on Hiring Top Talent and Improve Your Business’ Image

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We all know you need skilled and dedicated employees to build and grow your business. Attracting the right people is essential to positioning your company for growth and success, but establishing your company as a destination for top talent takes effort.

You’ve got to lead the competition on two fronts by: offering an attractive compensation and benefits package, and showcasing a corporate brand and culture that both excites and motivates candidates.

Here are 5 components to consider in your compensation and benefits package:

  1. Competitive salary
  2. Bonus or incentive compensation
  3. Health care and life insurance benefits
  4. Tax-saving retirement plans, like a 401(k) or Simple IRA plan
  5. Offering other types of benefits, such as childcare assistance or gym memberships, or things like “Free Lunch Friday’s”

Another important consideration when making decisions regarding compensation is whether an employee is exempt or non-exempt under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (also known as the FLSA). Non-exempt employees are entitled to certain protections, including minimum wage and overtime pay, under the FLSA. Be sure to comply with all federal and state laws regarding compensation and benefits.

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Ok, let’s talk about how to leverage your corporate culture during the recruitment process. It is important for you, as the hiring manager or business owner, to take the time to evaluate your company in relation to your competition, in terms of work environment, corporate brand and work flexibility.

Establishing a few new policies and procedures can enhance your corporate culture and make your company a big draw for rising stars in your industry.

Consider the following steps when improving or building your company’s image:

  • Your benefits, like flexible work arrangements, telecommuting, location and position to match candidates’ individual needs
  • Training, including career-enhancing courses, certifications and a clear path to career growth
  • Your company brand should be positive, well known and recognized in the industry as successful.
  • Your corporate environment should be a friendly, organized workplace with a well-established corporate culture and values. In fact, much has been written to support the notion that happier employees are, ultimately, more productive AND profitable.
  • Finally, and of critical importance, your interview process should be straightforward, friendly and professional.

Remember, your candidates are also interviewing you and this is your best opportunity to impress them with the vision of who you are and how they’d fit in your organization.

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Execupay: The Modernization of our Brand

Evolving the way users access and experience the Execupay brand is key to our customers success.

Execupay isn’t your average local business. As we move into over 45th year in business, our mission to innovate and accelerate our industry hasn’t changed. Several years ago, we created the, now ubiquitous, Execupay Logo and Website, to better communicate our style and message that we’re a people company. With that in mind, we’re ecstatic to announce the fresh new look of Execupay.

7 Topics to Cover While Onboarding New Employees

New employee orientation (also called onboarding) introduces newly hired employees to the workplace and familiarizes them with some of the company’s basic practices. In addition to helping new employees understand your company’s operating procedures, a thoughtful and well-designed orientation program also serves to set expectations and can help new employees be more productive team members at a faster pace.

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5 Tips on Payroll Outsourcing to Providers like Execupay

Execupay – More than just Payroll.

Many employers outsource their payroll and related tax duties to third-party payers, such as Execupay. Reputable third-party payers like ourselves can help employers streamline their business operations by collecting and timely depositing of payroll taxes on the employer’s behalf and filing required payroll tax returns with state and federal authorities.

While outsourcing payroll can be a sound business practice, it is important to remember that, like employers who handle their own payroll duties, employers who outsource this function are still legally responsible for any and all payroll taxes. Though many third-party payer businesses provide very good service, there are some who do not have their clients’ best interests at heart. Execupay has a proven history of providing this service for over 40 years.