By Kandice Matteson
Pool company employees, like any other, are going to want time off for whatever reason. As seasonal as the pool industry is, specific policies for employee attendance and time off are essential.
Flexibility is Key
“Our earned time off is called FTO — flexible time off,” says Angela Barta, operations manager for 21st Century Pools and Spas in Vestal, New York. “It is paid and it is accrued by years of service.” All salary and hourly employees accrue FTO at 21st Century, while commission and contract employees do not. Barta believes that being flexible with time-off policies in the industry is crucial. “We are flexible with our employees, so that they will be flexible in return,” she says.
Work environments with multiple crews with different skill sets for a variety of stages in the build process — like those at Tennessee Custom Pools in Nashville — are a prime example of the need for policy flexibility.
“Our regular employees are like family, so we understand if there’s an emergency and work as a team to get the job done [in someone’s absence],” says Krystle Stiles, co-owner.
Rob Levine, assistant manager for 3 Brothers Pool in Sayville, New York, says that it’s rare for an employee to abuse the company’s flexible policy. “(We) try to create an atmosphere to where the employees feel part of a team working toward a common goal,” Levine says. “There is an understanding amongst employees, which has led to there not being any real need to discipline people.”
Luke Norris, president of Luke Pool Service in Cumming, Georgia, says his company doesn’t have a paid sick-leave policy, though employees can accrue PTO based on how many hours they have worked. “[They’ve] got to work for a year to have enough hours to take off a full day,” Norris says. “Otherwise, if you don’t come to work, you don’t get paid.”
Frank Disher, owner of Alpha Pools in North Richland Hills, Texas, says since many of the company’s service employees are paid by the job rather than salary or hourly, employees are motivated to be present.
“If [an employee] is on an approved absence, he will get a base that is typically smaller than what his work would have paid,” Disher says. “With customer approval, we will allow an employee to make up missed days by working longer hours or Saturdays.”
Disher says Alpha Pools has tried many sick-leave policies and methods in the past before settling on the one in use. Currently, managers, supervisors and office staff have different time-off policies than service employees, though the company is still searching for a better way that works well for its employees and business, he adds.
Luke Pool Service, 21st Century and 3 Brothers Pool have no-vacation policies during the busy season.
“There are blackout weeks that vacation cannot be used, which include the week before Memorial Day and July Fourth,” Barta says.
No vacations are taken during spring and summer at 3 Brothers Pool, though any employees, whether salary or hourly, can take time off due to an illness. “If a sales member is sick with something preventing them from coming into work, they can take off without anything being counted against them,” Levine says. “Our sales staff works six days a week each during the pool season. Once we close for the season, they continue to be paid a salary to keep them with the company. As such, there is no vacation time taken during the pool season.”
Alpha Pools only approves time-off during the busy season when it is noted well in advance, Disher says. However, most service and office staff are given the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas off at Alpha Pools. At Luke Pool Service, while blackout vacation time also begins at Memorial Day and runs until the end of September, employees are given a week of paid vacation between Christmas and New Year’s Day as well as Thanksgiving and Black Friday off.
Make it Official
Regardless of how a time-off policy is formatted, Christy Hopkins, CEO and principal consultant of human resources firm 4 Point Consulting in Chicago, says, “Having written policies is definitely best practice to avoid confusion and misunderstandings.” Such written policies should include who is and is not eligible for paid-time off.
Hopkins recommends policies be revisited annually, or sooner if something dramatically changed at a company, like doubling in size.
Barta advises having someone in place to track time off earned, what’s been used and what’s left. And, in this business, she says, “Be flexible!”