Thursday, October 30, 2008

On Holidays, Holy Days and Days Off

The US is not alone in having federally mandated legal holidays; many other countries have these holidays as well. Many companies will close on these holidays; employees have no choice as to whether they wish to work on them or not. Other companies, whose services perhaps are required 24/7, will have at least skeleton crews around on a legal holiday; those who work on the holiday are given a compensatory day off of their choosing or are paid at time and a half. Some companies offer their employees "bonus" days in connection to a legal holiday, giving off the Friday after Thanksgiving, for example. In addition to the legal holidays companies also offer sick days--the number allotted varies-- and vacation days. Schools, which are a type of business, also offer days off during the "work" year. So what, you say?

There is a lot of grumpiness out there whenever an occasion for a day off from work occurs. One reason for this grumpiness is that different businesses offer wholly different days off from what other businesses are offering. In a practical sense you can have Dad with a day off while Mom doesn't have one, or vice versa. Now add in two or three different schools with different days off, or 1/2 days off, and you can have a family scheduling nightmare. For religious people you have the added headache of when holy days fall during the week.

My husband's company has a solution that has worked well for years, and I don't know why other companies do not follow suit. His company started out as a privately owned concern, with mostly frum employees. The company offers some services that are of a 24/7 nature and some that are not. Even now that the company is a subsidiary of a mega multi-national firm, its days off policy has remained the same. Someone was smart enough to understand that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." The policy? Each employee, depending on rank and on number of years worked, gets X number of days off from work a year. How an employee takes those days is strictly up to the employee. You want to take off on chol hamoed? No problem. You want to work on Thanksgiving? No problem. Non-Jewish employees take off the days that are important to them; Jewish employees take off the days that are important to them as well. It's not all hefker either. Employees still have to indicate when they will be taking off so that the bosses know what coverage will be available in the firm. But it's a lot easier for these employees to coordinate with their children's school schedules and with their spouses' schedules than if they were on a set calendar of days off.

This policy would work well for an awful lot of businesses that are out there, but not, unfortunately, for all. Schools in particular cannot offer their teachers this kind of a schedule. You can't just plug in substitutes and expect the type of continuity necessary for excellent learning to take place. But there is no reason that other businesses cannot think about adopting this policy. It would allow the type of flexibility that would be helpful to families. It's certainly something that you might want to bring up with your supervisors when you are planning how to take your days off. Again, it might not work for every business concern, but for the ones where it could work it produces a very happy staff.

11 comments:

Lion of Zion said...

"Schools in particular cannot offer their teachers this kind of a schedule."

so instead they just get off for חול המועד AND thanksgiving.

ProfK said...

Lion,
To be fair, the teachers do not get off for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, or New Years or Veterans Day or Election Day or Memorial Day or Martin Luther King Day or any of the other legal holidays, at least in the schools in our area. And they have a 1/2 day for Thanksgiving here. They also do not get the same amount of time for winter break that the public schools get. If parents had a flexible vacation schedule they would not have the problems that arise when all the holidays/chol hamoed come out midweek.

tesyaa said...

I'm not complaining at all, but I think when you work in the nonfrum world you have to scramble to manage your days off more than those who live in the Jewish world bubble. Take off erev yom tov? That's a given in yeshivas. As for the rest of us, who has enough days to even take yom tov and have some days over for random childcare and other emergencies?

Like I said, I'm not complaining. But I think it's funny how people working for frum businesses take these things for granted. A few months after I went back to work full time after a stay-at-home mother hiatus, I met an acquaintance in the bakery Friday morning. I mentioned that I had gone back to work full time. He expressed surprise, then said, "But of course, you don't work Fridays, right?" Right. Full time tends to include Fridays, too.

Anonymous said...

Here in Europe there is a mandatory annual leave allowance. The amount of time off a US employee is entitled to seems, well, pretty pitiful to a European.

Aliza said...

I don't get off for chol hamoed--the school is closed and no one can work during that time. I don't get off for erev a yom tov--the school closes and no one can work then. I work every legal holiday. Add up my time off during the school year and then add up the time off that public school teachers have or others working in regular businesses have and you will find out that I am not getting more time off then they are. It's just that my time off is different days then theirs is. I'm not working in a Jewish bubble, I am choosing to work in a place right now that has vacations and time off that is the same as my kid's time off so I can be with them when there is no school. My husband works in a not Jewish firm and he has days off that don't fit with the kids days off. One of us has to be there for the kids. Please, no more pointing fingers at us who work in Jewish schools as if we are getting something that no one else has or that we are not entitled to. I gave up having a higher salary and benefits so that I can be there for my kids. Someone should really be applauding me for putting my kids first.

tesyaa said...

aliza, relax! I *said* I wasn't compaining about my situation, and I certainly didn't mean to get you all worked up. Are you implying that I'm not putting my kids first? If you are, I'm not going to get worked up about it.

Aliza said...

I wasn't writing my response directed at you personally Tesyaa. But if you are honest I'm sure you have heard many people say of those of us working in the yeshiva system that we are getting something "extra" that others don't get because they are working in the non Jewish world. My point is that we aren't getting something extra at all. Our days off go according to the school calendar and equal out to the days off in the outside world in terms of actual time.

I for sure can't say you don't put your kids first but others don't want to realize or admit that I am putting my kids first by working in the yeshiva system. They always focus on what they think I am getting that I'm somehow not entitled to instead of seeing it as a choice to put my family first.

Lion of Zion said...

PROFK:

"To be fair . . ."

i know we've been through this before (and i do have another post coming up as i've been fuming since i found out my son's school has off for shushan purim), buy i'll just say this again: you're lucky your kids went to RW schools. in the prep-school-wanna-be MO yeshivot, there is vacation not just for חול המועד and every ערב חג (and more), but also thanksgiving (2 days!), veterans day, memorial day, columbus day (ok, it was actually חול המועד), a winter break that is longer than the public school's christmas break, a pesach break that is longer than the public school's spring break. and my son's school started later and ends earlier than public schools.

all i can say is thank god school administrators are not familiar with מגלת תענית and מגלת המקדש (which contain minor holidays no longer celebrated), otherwise there would never be any school

SaraK said...

I would live to be able to set my own days off, but in a company that does not have business of a 24/7 nature, that just wouldn't work. As it is, when I come in the week between Christmas and New Year's (when almost everyone takes vacation time) the office is extremely quiet and there is much less work to do. I also can't really do business with vendors or other businesses because so many people are off that week. What would I do if I came to the office on an actual holiday like Christmas or Thanksgiving. Most bosses would not pay someone for that.

SaraK said...

I would love, not live

A Living Nadneyda said...

In the Israeli system, special ed schools get all the regular holidays off, as well as erevei chag, but we work during the summer vacation (july 1 - 15 august), so we have something called "Code 14" which allows us to take off days during the school year (with prior permission of our school principal, of course) and make them up over the summer or during other school holidays (the week before pesach, the week of chanukah) or during the summer holiday, or even during regular work days, after we've worked our regular hours. The system allows for more flexibility, since special ed. schools have to provide a place for disabled kids to learn and receive medical care during the daytime, even during vacations. We're also allowed to travel abroad (again, with prior permission) during the school year, while regular ed. teachers are only allowed during the summer.