Team Management

These Are the Paid Holidays Most Businesses Give Their Teams

Tim Sackett SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP) 
These Are the Paid Holidays Most Small Businesses Give Their Teams

Any good employer knows that are certain days each year in which employees should receive paid time off. Not sure what the paid holiday schedule should look like?

That’s where I come in. I’ll show you how to build your own paid holiday schedule for your small business, using benchmarking data as a trusty guide.

The bigger PTO picture

Let’s start with the main question on your mind: How much time off do people normally get? An average full-time employee in a small, privately-owned business in the U.S. receives about 7.6 paid holidays per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number also breaks down even further:

  • Technical/professional employees get 8.5-ish days a year.
  • Clerical/sales employees get 7.7-ish days a year.
  • Blue-collar/service employees get 7 days a year.

Think about these benchmarks as you decide on the number that will work best for you business.

There are no federal laws requiring employers to give PTO, but most companies offer it anyway. Why? Because it’s a must to attract and retain great employees. In fact, PTO is the second most important benefit to employees, right after health insurance.

Now, onto the next layer of the paid holiday puzzle: Choosing the actual days you give off.

What paid holidays are normally handed out?

Most employers offer the paid holidays listed below:

New Year’s DayJanuary 1st
Memorial Day
  • May 29th, 2023
  • May 27th, 2024
Fourth of JulyJuly 4th
Labor DaySeptember 4th, 2023
Thanksgiving Day
  • November 24th, 2022
  • November 23rd, 2023
  • November 28th, 2024
Friday after Thanksgiving
  • November 25th, 2022
  • November 24th, 2023
  • November 28th, 2024
Christmas DayDecember 25th

Some companies also include Easter in that list. Since Easter always falls on a Sunday, that works for certain businesses (like retail), but not others (like an office).

What else can I do?

There’s a grab bag of other possibilities. They include:

Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Day)
  • January 16th, 2023
  • January 15th, 2024
President’s Day/Washington’s Birthday
  • February 20th, 2023
  • February 19th, 2024
Good Friday
  • April 7th, 2023
  • March 19th, 2024
JuneteenthJune 19th
Day before Fourth of JulyJuly 3rd
Columbus Day/Indigenous People’s Day
  • October 10th, 2022
  • October 9th, 2023
  • October 14th, 2024
Veterans DayNovember 11th
Christmas EveDecember 24th
Day after ChristmasDecember 26th
New Year’s EveDecember 31st

If you offered all these holidays above, it would come out to 14, which is double the norm.

How to mix and match (and think about all of this)

Here are three approaches to mixing and matching your holiday stash:

1. Offer two floating holidays in addition to the first list

That would bring an employee to nine paid holiday days. They can choose which two of the potential floating holiday options (largely the second list) makes the most sense for them, their beliefs, their family’s vacation schedule, and other factors.

2. Work from home days

Turn some of those holidays into WFH (or WFH-optional) days where employees are expected to be online but don’t have to come to the office. This is not a reduction in work time, but it is a reduction in the necessity of seat time.

3. Contextualize the time of year

If you sell children’s toys, yes, perhaps the period right around Christmas might be very busy for you. If you sell insurance, it’s probably less so. So keep your busy seasons in mind when crafting your holiday schedule.

There are also some parts of the year where the natural cadence of your business will slow down—and the corresponding need for family time will ramp up. At these times, it’s okay to take your foot off the gas and offer up some more days if it works for your bottom line.

So, what paid holidays should I offer?

One thing HR experts agree on—offer the big six for sure. That’s a must for most small businesses. At a bare minimum, you want to offer those days to keep your team happy. After that? It’s your call.

  • The day after Thanksgiving is a must.
  • If you want to be better than average, throw in Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Now you’re at nine.
  • If a holiday falls on a Thursday, Friday, Monday, or Tuesday, consider adding an extra day to turn it into a four-day weekend.

Want to take it to the next level? Consider giving all your holidays as PTO and letting your employees pick the days they want to take. This takes religion off the table and gives your team some freedom over how they take their PTO.

If you go that route, just make your employees pick the holidays upfront. Only allow them to change once per year, like the same date you do your benefits open enrollment. Otherwise, you’re dealing with an administrative nightmare.

The next step? It’s your call. Slot the holidays that matter into your company calendar and share it with the team. Now, there won’t be any more shrugs when a holiday swings around.

Tim Sackett
Tim Sackett Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP, is a world-renowned HR thought leader and author. He currently runs his own technical staffing firm in Michigan, so he definitely understands the talent and HR struggles of small businesses.
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