Q: I own a small company (less than 10 employees) and am struggling with how to deal with how to give my employees time off for personal reasons. I am not sure if I can afford to give everyone all the days that they need. How does a company balance this? I want to be fair but I also have a business to run.
A: Just a week after the Boston Marathon bombings, you raise a timely and important question. Most small business owners want to be reasonable and supportive.
Consider establishing a guideline to offer some time off (maybe 1-2 days per year?) for personal issues. You can communicate that these days should be used to attend to personal concerns or emergencies. As an example, you can explain to your employees that these days can used for a wide variety of reasons, including moving from one apartment to another, to wait for an appliance delivery or to attend the funeral service of a loved one.
Another option, especially common in retail work environments, is to ask your employee to find a co-worker to fill in for the specific shift. Often times, another co-worker can trade a shift with the employee needing a specific date and time off.
Some employers will allow the employee to take the time off but without pay. Most employers, however, will provide 1-3 days off per year with pay, especially if the need is serious (e.g., a personal health concern, funeral of a close family member or some type of natural disaster).
What you will find is that most of your employees will only use this time off when the time off is really needed. There may be a select few that take advantage of these days but those are usually a rarity. When your most loyal and valuable employees come to you with this request, you will want to give them options for taking the time off. Having guidelines in place will help you respond to these requests in a fair and supportive way.