Monday, October 06, 2008

Why not Paid Holidays instead of Closed Holidays?

In India, we have a system of closed holidays. Typically 12 days in a year. Out of these 3 are Government Holidays, viz. Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti. If as an employer you require your employees to report to work during a national holiday, you need to seek advance permission from the Labour commissioner. Now, leaving these 3, and Labour day the other 8 are religious holidays. Religious holidays of those religion which most of the workforce follow.

All of the above are also paid holidays. The employee draws a salary even though the office is closed. But typically, for a lot of these holidays, the purpose of the holiday is lost. "Kal chutti hai". "Kis baat ki pata nahin per kal chutti hai". This is the typical workforce response. Now, instead of giving a holiday for Navroz, when the majority of your workforce is non-parsee, or not giving a holiday for Id, when there are substantial number of employees who are muslims, really doesn't make sense.

At the same time not everyone celebrates Ganesh Utsav or Durga Puja. A better proposition would be to give 8 days of paid leave per employee per year. The employee can choose when to avail that. Also, the paid leave policy could be made transferable. So, if I see that I am not going to use my paid holidays for this year, I should be allowed to transfer it to a colleague who needs that holiday. Maybe for medical or personal reason. This would also go a long way in enhancing employee morale.

There are of course some shortcomings for this idea:
  1. If your work depends on the work of others, this system may not work. If the critical operator is on leave, it doesn't make sense for the rest to be at work and not do anything productive. But at the same time, this ensures that the system becomes process dependent and doesn't remain person dependent
  2. For working mothers, this may not be a very great option. Schools will not and can not have the concept of paid holidays. So, schools will choose those 8 days to close. Working mothers will have to make arrangement for baby-sitting on those days
  3. If certain religious holidays (like Holi) lead to large scale disruption of normal city life, then this concept would not work. Most people would choose to stay away from work rather than venture out and risk getting assaulted by revelers
But the advantages of this, other than the ones already mentioned would be:
  1. This takes care of every religious denomination and also the atheists. No one feels excluded as every employee can choose which festivals to celebrate and which not to. This will serve as a morale booster
  2. Typically it has been observed that when the festivals are on a Thursday or Tuesday, there is a marked decrease in attendance on Friday and Monday. This will help in curbing that trend
  3. A longer vacation period for employees
Well, the merits and demerits are open to debate. Nor would this system suit all workplaces. But at the same time, this idea needs to be thoroughly examined before either implementing or rejecting it.


Divya Kumar said...

How will this stop/reduce the trend of people taking monday off if tuesday is the festival day?
Transferring your leave balance to a colleague - Might not be possible legally also. The employment contract is personal and so are terms and conditions. Practice of additional incentive for working on a Gazetted holiday is prevelant especially in essential services like Public transport/electricity etc.
Of the 8 days you mentioned, holi/diwali are already gone due to problems mentioned by you so these days have to be closed holidays. Would you take the risk of declaring non-hindu festivals like Id/Guru Nanak Bday/Christmas as paid holidays in a secular country?
Don't take it as criticism...just some points of disagreement :)

Robin said...

Just a bit of trivia....Holiday as a word is nothing but a joining of two words Holy Day. It is in fact a reason to celebrate the day with friends and family, whatever the religion. And in a country like India, its great to enjoy other festivals, in fact if celebrated together, it might even create bonhomie in the organization. Also,we generally have around 20 days of paid leaves anyway. Where we can take holidays for the festivals where we dont have holidays. And as Divya said Don't take it as criticism...just some points of disagreement :)

The Ech Aar Manager said...

One, this is open to criticism and disagreement as this is just a theory.

The reason I think this will work is because in organization after organization I see the trend that those holidays are declared closed holidays that the majority in that organization believe in. Eg. Navroz is not a holiday in my company but it is in the Tata Group. What happens to those Parsees who are employed in my company? Why should they be forced to take a leave on their holiday and celebrate Dusshera?

Also, the increase in productivity as I see it. If you notice the most unproductive time in a department is during friday afternoon and monday morning and similarly before and after a weekly off. Nothing can be done about the friday and monday, but the mid week off unproductive period can be clubbed together in one lump during the person's vacation time.

Leave balance transfer may not work as DK pointed out. But my thinking is why cant a leave pool be created. For a department maybe? If we can authorize a day's salary for some relief measure why can't we authorize leave? I am willingly giving my leave to my colleague who needs it. I sign to that effect. We have to examine the legality of it, but then it is something that will give added impetus to office as a family concept.