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Federal Holidays to Consider Including in a Time Off Policy

By September 21, 2022October 7th, 2022Best Practices, Holidays

Federal HolidayAs we near the end of 2022, now is a good time to start planning your business calendar for 2023. Like many companies, you will need to decide which federal holidays, if any, to recognize as part of your overall business decisions.

What are the official federal holidays?
The United States has established by law 12 permanent federal holidays. The first four federal holidays were created in 1870, when Congress granted paid time off to federal workers in the District of Columbia for New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

In 1880, George Washington’s Birthday (now observed as Presidents Day) was included. Since then, Congress has added seven federal holidays, creating Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) in 1888, Labor Day in 1894, Armistice Day (now Veterans Day) in 1938, Inauguration Day in 1957 (quadrennially and only celebrated in the District of Columbia), Columbus Day in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday in 1983, and Juneteenth in 2021.

Federal Holidays at a Glance

  • New Year’s Day (January 1)
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Third Monday in January)
  • Presidents Day (Third Monday in February)
  • Memorial Day (Last Monday in May)
  • Juneteenth National Independence Day (June 19)
  • Independence Day (July 4)
  • Labor Day (First Monday in September)
  • Columbus Day (Second Monday in October)
  • Veterans Day (November 11)
  • Thanksgiving Day (Fourth Thursday in November)
  • Christmas Day (December 25)

Although frequently thought of as national holidays, these celebrations are only legally applicable to federal employees and the District of Columbia. Private employers aren’t required to give their employees time off on designated federal holidays. However, most employees would expect to receive the most popular holidays off, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. While time off on non-major federal holidays is always appreciated, each employer must weigh its business needs with the desire to give employees paid time off.

What if the holiday falls on a weekend or a day when the employee isn’t working anyway?
All full-time federal employees are entitled to an “in lieu of” holiday when a holiday falls on a day when the employee wouldn’t be working anyway. For example, if a holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, an appropriate “in lieu of” holiday would apply on either the Friday before or the Monday after. Many private businesses follow this same practice.

What is a floating holiday?
As an alternative to granting time off for every federal holiday, employers may offer floating holidays that can be used at the employee’s discretion. Employees may use the floating holiday to recognize a public holiday or events of personal meaning, such as religious holidays or cultural observations.

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