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Holiday Gift Giving and Year-End Paid Time Off Are Up in 2011
No significant change in employer-sponsored parties

By SHRM Online staff  12/12/2011
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In 2011, employers in the U.S. seemed to have sputtered out in their sponsorship of year-end party celebrations and charitable giving. Where employers were substantially more likely in 2010 than 2009 to sponsor nearly all types of year-end party giving and engage in charitable activities, the trend is not continuing in 2011.

Employers are less likely in 2011 than in 2010 to shoulder the full costs of their companywide parties. Participation and sponsorship of charitable activities increased vs. 2010, but only marginally. One bright spot: Employer gift giving was set to increase over the previous year. And because Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Sundays in 2011, employers are more likely than in 2010 to offer extended holiday leave, according to BNA’s Year-End Holiday Practices Survey.

The 2011 survey results from BNA, a provider of legal, regulatory and business information, are based on the responses of HR executives representing 392 U.S. employers. Among the highlights:

Gifts to employees will increase for the second straight year. Forty-six percent of surveyed employers will give their workers some type of year-end holiday gift or bonus, up from 41 percent of employers in 2010 and 33 percent in 2009. Gift giving is at a five-year high, rebounding from the low established in 2009.

There has been no significant change since 2010 in employer-sponsored companywide parties. Fifty-six percent of employers report that they will sponsor some sort of companywide holiday party in 2011, little changed from a year earlier (58 percent) but a 6-percentage-point increase over the 50 percent of companies that reported hosting company parties in 2009. That figure still does not reverse the precipitous 14-point decline that occurred from 2008 to 2009 (from 64 percent to 50 percent).

Another View
According to
a poll by the Society for Human Resource Management, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of surveyed employers were set to hold a holiday end-of-year party in 2011, up from 61 percent in 2009 and 2010.


• Organizations are evenly divided between those that will and will not allow workers to invite spouses or other guests to attend year-end companywide celebrations. Half of surveyed employers said they will allow guests of their employees to attend their year-end companywide parties, little changed from the 52 percent of employers that permitted spouses or other guests to attend these parties in 2010. There has, however, been a declining trend in the proportion of employers that are opening up their parties to guests of employees. In 2005, more than six in 10 employers (62 percent) were laying out the welcome mat for spouses and guests.

Although little changed from 2010, there has been a sharp decline in the availability of alcoholic beverages at year-end parties since 2008. Fifty-five percent of surveyed employers will be serving alcoholic beverages at their parties in 2011, essentially unchanged from the 56 percent that made alcohol available in 2010. Nevertheless, there has been a clear declining trend since 2008, when nearly two-thirds of employers (65 percent) served alcohol at their year-end party celebrations.

Most organizations are instituting at least some measures to limit overindulgence and to safeguard guests. Out of concern for their employees—as well as to protect themselves from legal liability—companies have adopted measures to monitor and limit alcohol consumption at year-end celebrations. Nearly two-thirds of employers (65 percent) will task bartenders with monitoring alcohol consumption. Other measures will include limiting times when alcohol is served (51 percent), offering taxi service for employees and guests (48 percent), providing discounted hotel rates to encourage overnight stays (28 percent) and appointing designated drivers (7 percent).

Some organizations will sponsor additional holiday celebrations. In addition to companywide holiday parties, 37 percent of employers will sponsor events at the unit or department level (essentially unchanged from 36 percent in 2010), and 35 percent will host informal holiday parties--sponsored and funded by employees--to be held on company time (down from 39 percent the previous year).

Participation in charitable activities rose slightly. More than two-thirds of employers (67 percent) planned to sponsor or participate in one or more charitable activities in 2011, up 3 percentage points from 2010 but a significant increase from 2009 levels (59 percent).

Holiday leave will be more generous than in 2010. With Christmas and New Year’s falling on a Sunday in 2011, 42 percent of employers planned to grant workers three or more days off with pay. In contrast, 36 percent granted three or more days paid leave during the year-end 2010 holiday season.

Manufacturers and small organizations typically have generous holiday leave policies. Manufacturing companies (70 percent) were much more likely than nonmanufacturing companies (37 percent) and nonbusiness concerns (31 percent) to give employees three or more days of paid vacation. Among employers with fewer than 1,000 workers, 44 percent planned to provide three or more paid holidays during Christmas and New Year’s, compared with 32 percent of larger employers.

Related Articles:

Holiday Bonuses, Gifts and Parties More Prevalent in 2011, SHRM Online Compensation Discipline, December 2011

Workers Prefer to Find Bonus Under Tree, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, December 2011

More Employers Will Host Holiday Parties in 2011, Inside SHRM, December 2011

Holiday Policies that Serve the Needs of Employers, Employees, SHRM Online Employee Relations Discipline, December 2011

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