The holiday season is a busy time for employers. Besides business, they also have HR and health and safety obligations to attend to.
There are substitute holidays to account for and vacation requests to accommodate. December is also a time for planning holiday social events and preparing for safety risks created by inclement winter weather.
Statutory holidays 2021
There are three statutory holidays in 2021 that occur during the holiday season – Christmas Day, Boxing Day (public holiday in Ontario only) and New Year’s Day. In 2021, all three of these holidays fall on a Saturday or Sunday.
As these holidays are on the weekends, employees in Ontario, BC and Alberta will receive a paid day off on December 27, 2021, and January 3, 2022. Additionally, Ontario employees will also get a substitute holiday on December 28, 2021, to account for Boxing Day.
As there are several substitute holidays this season, some employees will likely be travelling. Travel restrictions are expected to increase after emergence of cases of the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, in several countries across the world, including Canada.
While employers cannot restrict an employee’s personal travel, it is best to advice staff to be aware of restrictions in place for international travel.
Employers should update their travel policy and let staff know that they should inform the company of their travel plans that will require quarantine upon return.
Holiday party planning
Employees staying home during the holidays will most likely be attending a work holiday party. Employers planning holiday parties should consider some factors such as proof of vaccine requirements at the venue (if the party is not in office), and the capacity limit at the venue.
Employers should also consider the additional precaution of rapid testing their employees prior to the gathering. You may want to incorporate a virtual aspect for employees who feel uncomfortable physically attending the social event.
Winter health and safety measures
Slips, trips, and falls increase during winter as the temperatures drop. It is important that employers take steps to reduce risk of injury due to snow and ice.
Employers should ensure they have implemented winter health and safety measures such as plowing, salting, and maintaining parking lots and walkways, installing slip resistant tape in stairwells, placing carpets in entry ways to avoid excessive water, and providing outdoor workers with all necessary equipment.
Seasonal mental health concerns
With daylight saving time in place and the first official day of winter fast approaching, it is likely that some of your employees may experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD is a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons. It is most prevalent in the fall and winter months. Employers should watch for signs of depression or burnout in staff. You should ensure you have mental health resources and Employee Assistance Programs in place to help.
For some, the cause of depression may not be the seasonal change to winter, but the personal and financial losses caused by the pandemic.
Many employees may be struggling with grief, loss, stress, social isolation, and depression. It is important that employers are inclusive, understanding, flexible and communicative. This will help ensure your staff finds healthy coping mechanisms and is able to take care of their mental health.
Do you need help creating HR and health and safety policies for the holiday season?
Our experts can help you with company policies as well as with any other health and safety and human resource management issues that may arise. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call an expert today at 1 (833) 247-3652.