It’s time to announce your 2021 holiday schedule.  But maybe you have some questions: Should you make any changes or just re-do what you had last year?  What changes are other companies making?  Here is some helpful advice as you look to set your holidays for 2021.

How many holidays should your company offer?

First, let’s start with the basics: How many paid holidays should your company offer?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, full time employees receive 7.6 days of paid holidays each year on average.  That average goes up to 8.5 days for “Professional, Technical and related employees”.  In the software industry, offering 10 holidays is very common.  Clearly, having 15 holidays would be overly generous while having only five would not nearly be enough. But the number of vacation days can also influence your paid holidays.  If you have a very generous time off package (for example, 4 weeks of paid vacation) then you may choose to get a little tighter with the holidays you are offering.  When you set the number of holidays for your company, look at the “big picture” of what you are offering to your employees and how that compares to your industry and geographic area.

Which Holidays to offer

Now, let’s discuss which holidays to offer.  The U.S. government publishes a list of Federal holidays each year.  However, private employers are not obligated to give employees paid time off for all federal holidays.  Only financial institutions and federal employees are required to have Federal holidays as paid time off.  So, if you are a private employer, you have some discretion over the selection of your company holidays.

Some holidays are more common than others. Here is a grid showing some of the major federal holidays and other days off that are routinely offered by employers:

Also, you will want to check for any widely celebrated state holidays that are not Federal holidays.  For example, Patriot’s Day is fairly common for Massachusetts companies.  Review your company’s list from last year and ask “the locals” if you’re new to an area.  You can also consider taking a poll to get your employee’s thoughts as well. 

I suggest setting your target number of days (ex. 10) and starting to form a list of the high priority “no brainers” for your company and then you can work down from there.

If you really get stuck trying to decide between a few holidays to get to your desired count, you can consider offering a floating holiday or two.  For example, your company could observe 8 holidays as a company and 2 holidays could be given as floating holidays for people to use at their discretion. This has the benefit of allowing team members to take time off when it is more important to them to celebrate something.

What’s New

There seem to be two trends developing in holidays being offered by employers.  The first is that a growing number of companies are offering Juneteenth as a paid holiday to their employees.  Juneteenth commemorates the date in 1865 when news of the emancipation of African American slaves reached Galveston.  According to the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, 46 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to officially recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or special day of observance. The list of companies that offered Juneteenth as a paid holiday in 2020 include Nike, Twitter, Square, Mastercard, Adobe, Postmates, Quicken Loans, Target, Ben & Jerry’s, Workday, Tumblr, J.C. Penney, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Vox Media.

The second trend developing is the recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day instead of Columbus Day.  Fourteen states (Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin) plus the District of Columbia and more than 130 cities observe Indigenous Peoples Day instead of or in addition to Columbus Day.  The change intends to cast light on and protest the conquest of North America by Europeans, and to call attention to the losses suffered by the Native American peoples and their cultures through diseases, warfare, massacres, and forced assimilation. 

2021 “bonus” Holiday

Although not officially related to 2021, New Years day 2022 falls on a Saturday, so you should also publish New Year’s Eve (12/31/21) as a holiday for the observance of New Year’s day 2022.

Wrapping Up

In summary, employers need to set a schedule that makes sense for their organization.  In every organization, there needs to be a balance between productivity and employee happiness.  Setting a reasonably generous holiday schedule can go a long way to keep your employees refreshed and engaged.