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Holiday Pay: How it Works and What it Means for Your Business

by Tim AustinNovember 27, 2019 8:00 AM

The holidays are typically a time of joy and celebration, but they also require business owners to make some additional considerations about holiday pay. This type of pay makes it possible for employees to stay home for a selection of holidays and still get paid for those days. However, this benefit isn’t always a guarantee depending on the needs of your business. 

Are you unsure about how to handle holiday pay for your business? We broke down some common holiday pay questions to help you determine how holiday pay can affect your business and the best plan of action for your specific situation.

A piggy bank with Christmas lights representing holiday pay. 

Do Businesses Need to Provide Holiday Pay?

While many businesses offer holiday pay, it is not a legal requirement. According to the Department of Labor, “The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require payment for time not worked, such as vacations or holidays (federal or otherwise).” In essence, a holiday is treated just like any other workday. As such, employers would only pay non-exempt workers for the time they worked (exempt employees would simply receive their normal salary regardless of whether they had the holiday off or not).

While holiday pay isn’t required, employers may opt to provide it to employees. The terms of the holiday pay is subject to an agreement between the employer and its employees, although you aren’t required to pay a premium rate specifically for holiday pay.

Do Businesses Need to Provide Time Off for Holidays?

As with holiday pay, employers are not required by federal law to provide time off on the holidays and may choose to close for certain holidays on their own. Holidays are considered regular workdays, so any employee who works those days is entitled to normal pay as opposed to overtime pay. 

The one exception in regards to time off for certain holidays is that employers are expected to provide reasonable accommodation for any employees that observe a religious holiday. One way to accommodate this would be to provide floating holidays that allow workers to use their time off for an observed holiday. Other options include allowing employees to take a vacation day or unpaid time off for a specific holiday unless the employer can show that their absence would create undue stress for the business.

What are the Benefits of Offering Holiday Pay?

There are a couple reasons why you may decide to provide holiday pay. One reason is to give workers a chance to celebrate various holidays with their family and friends without having to worry about how that time off will affect their paychecks. By offering some of these days off along with holiday pay, you can show your employees some appreciation for their hard work throughout the year.

Another reason why you’d offer some holidays off with pay is to make your company appear more competitive in the hiring process. While a holiday may be the same as any other day in terms of pay, they can feel a lot more important to your employees. Offering those days off with pay can help make a difference when trying to attract and retain talented people.

Are All Employees Entitled to Holiday Pay if It’s Offered by the Company?

If you decide to offer holiday pay, you don’t have to provide it to all your employees. As long as the basis of choosing who gets holiday pay isn’t discriminatory, you can provide the benefit to some employees and not others. For example, you can opt to provide holiday pay to only full-time employees or office workers if you so choose. However, you can’t base your decision on a protected classification such as age or race.

How Should I Set up a Holiday Pay Policy?

Since you dictate the specifics of your holiday pay policy, it’s important to include that policy in your employee handbook and communicate it to your employees. This will allow you to clearly list the exact details of your policy if you decide to provide certain holidays off and if you choose to provide holiday pay. The details of this policy should include:

  • A list of dates designated as holidays (whether it follows the list of federal holidays or a modified list)
  • Which employees are eligible for holiday pay
  • The rate for holiday pay or if there are any bonuses attached to working a holiday
  • How a paid holiday works if they fall on a weekend

What’s the Right Call for My Business?

Ultimately, the decision of whether you want to provide holiday pay or not is up to you. Some businesses that employ multiple non-exempt employees may not have the funds to provide pay for days off, while others may require people to regularly work on holidays. Each case is different, so it’s best to find an option that makes sense for your business.

Running a business involves making several important decisions. This responsibility requires a lot of time and effort from any business owner, but you don’t need to handle this load alone. At GMS, our HR experts can help you manage a variety of key business functions ranging from payroll to benefits administration. When you need assistance, we can provide the services and expertise necessary to keep your business prepared for the future.

Ready to talk to an expert about holiday pay or any other business need? Contact GMS today to talk to us about how we can help your make your business simpler, safer, and stronger.

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