Observing Federal Holidays When They Fall on the Weekend

By Katherine Muniz
December 16, 2016

This year, both Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on the weekend. So what does that mean for your employees? You decide. While you aren’t required to give employees the day off for any holiday, most employers at least give employees the day off on federal holidays in order to sustain employee morale. However, with these two major holidays falling on a Sunday this year, the path to take is less certain.

What HR Experts Say

“When the holidays fall on a weekend, no one should expect to be compensated another day to celebrate the holiday,” says Marc Prosser, a small business expert, and co-founder of Fit Small Business. “What ends up happening is, some years you get lucky and some you don’t, but it eventually evens out. That doesn’t mean people won’t complain but it still doesn’t mean that it is standard practice or should be standard practice to compensate for holidays that fall on weekends.”

According to Tricia Perkins of Grey Owl Consulting LLC, “Customarily, employers who are open Monday through Friday will recognize the holiday on Friday if the holiday falls on a Saturday.

Or, they will recognize the holiday on Monday if the holiday falls on a Sunday. Another option is to remain open on Friday and Monday and provide floating holidays to the employees for these recognized holidays.

Usually, the floating holidays are to be used within a time frame around the recognized holiday.” Floating holidays are days employees can take off for at their discretion. They allow employees the flexibility to take time off when they need, such as to observe a religious holiday that isn’t included in the typically paid holiday schedule.

Realistically speaking, most employers do follow the customary practice of giving employees time off when holidays fall on a weekend. “Unless you want resentment and low morale, you must give a day off for both Christmas and New Year’s,” said Bruce A. Hurwitz of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, Ltd.

Joe Campagna, an SPHR certified HR Consultant and head of a consultancy named My Virtual HR Director, agrees. “The standard I have always seen, used, and recommend is that when a holiday falls on a weekend, the employer still provides a workday off with pay. Unless a company wants to risk losing good employees, the temptation to save some money by not providing paid time off in these situations is short-sighted and unwise.”

However Greg Szymanski SPHR, CCP, CBP comments that while he has follows the prior Friday and post Monday rule, not all businesses do. “There are lots of exceptions, including retail, food service, 24/7 manufacturing businesses which probably have different ways of addressing weekend holidays.” Regardless of your viewpoint, it’s important to decide how you’ll treat weekend holidays so you can set a precedent for the future.

While expert opinions vary on whether you should or should not offer a substitute day off when the holidays fall on a weekend, most believe that it’s a small gesture that goes a long way.

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