'Holiday? What Christmas holiday?' warn U.S bosses

2006

Nearly half of American workers can expect a better than average year-end gift or bonus this Christmas and New Year, but don't expect much in the way of paid time off over the holiday period in return.

Unlike in Europe and Britain, where much of the Continent will be looking forward to the best part of a two-week shutdown from 23 December, in the U.S the notion of paid time off beyond the days of Christmas and New Year has been steadily declining for the past two decades.

Now a poll by business information publisher BNA and workplace consulting firm Kronos has suggested that holiday bonuses, traditionally around the $200 and $300 mark, are set to be higher than normal this year because the U.S economy has been doing so well of late.

Non-management workers as well as high-flying executives will be likely to find their pockets feeling a little heavier, too.

Both Christmas and New Year's Day, as they fall on a Monday, will be paid holiday days at the vast majority of companies.

But just four out of 10 firms said they would offer their workers three or more paid days off, including the two holidays.

In 2000, by comparison, the figure was nearly half and back in 1989 as many as six out of 10 gave their workers extra paid time away from work.

Despite almost annual warnings that the increasingly litigious nature of the modern workplace is driving the office party to extinction, more than eight out of 10 employers said they would be holding at least one party this year, with the majority picking up the tab in full.

This year large companies would spend around $25,000 on company-wide parties, with smaller ones splashing out around $5,700, the research found.

Nearly three quarters planned to serve alcohol – but would ask bartenders to monitor consumption – and nearly half said they would limit the time during which alcohol is served.

Four out of 10, probably wisely, said they would offer taxis home for the inebriated and a third were even prepared to arrange for hotel discounts for those would preferred to stay overnight.

A separate poll, meanwhile, by pollster Harris Interactive found that, where once the office party (however awful) was a necessary evil workers felt they had to attend, attitudes are changing and almost half of adult workers now feel they do not necessarily have to go.

And more than four out of 10 said their employer – bah humbug – was not holding an annual holiday party this year anyway.