If you’re wondering what the most common paid U.S. holidays are (plus additional ones you can offer your staff), here’s the list for you.
There are certain days of the year when no one wants to work. We’re talking, of course, about holidays. Since the vast majority of workers (and their bosses!) would rather spend these days celebrating with their families and friends or simply kicking back and relaxing, many businesses close their doors and give everyone the day off on major holidays.
The average United States worker in the private sector gets 8 paid holidays per year according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are 6 or 7 specific holidays that nearly every full-time, permanent employee can take off with pay — the remaining 1 or 2 holidays vary from business to business and, increasingly, employee to employee these days with the popularity of floating holidays (more on that in a bit). There has also been a push for employers to be more civic-minded, with many pledging to give workers Election Day off.
To help you put together a paid vacation (often rolled into a paid time off, or PTO) benefits package for your staff, we’ve made a list of the most common paid holidays that U.S. employers give their teams. We recommend that you give your employees as many of these holidays as possible. Consider offering a few more if it fits your budget — we included a few good ideas for those, too!
As much fun as it would be if this was a holiday on a boat, alas it is not. A floating holiday is an extra day (or days) that employees can use to observe holidays of their choosing outside of the employer’s holiday schedule and the nation’s norms. The best part is that floating holidays can help staff who belong to minority religious or cultural groups — and therefore celebrate different holidays — feel less marginalized. Others like to use the opportunity to take days like their birthday or anniversary off or just simply turn a long weekend into an even longer getaway.
While it might seem new, 48% of U.S. employers already offer floating holidays. You can organize floating holidays however you’d like. Most employers offer 1 or 2 floating holiday days each year — let your employees’ needs decide.
A floating holiday is an extra day (or days) that employees can use to observe holidays of their choosing outside of the employer’s holiday schedule and the nation’s norms.
New Year’s Day
New Year’s Day is the first day of the year — January 1. The vast majority of U.S. workers receive a paid holiday on this day. And it’s a good thing, too, as many people like to sleep in and recover from the New Year’s Eve parties of the night before (even if they might be virtual or super-duper small this year)!
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
MLK day will fall on Monday, January 18 in 2021. There is no denying the immense impact that this man has had on our country and as we continue to ricochet around towards a more just world with recent pushes for civil rights, it can be an important show of solidarity to make MLK Day a paid holiday.
Americans celebrate Memorial Day on the last Monday of May. In 2021, it will fall on May 31, the last day of the month. Because most workers get the day off, it’s a customary 3-day weekend for many. Whether the days are spent mourning those who have been lost or planning a much-needed vacation (there aren’t many U.S. holidays between January and May), it’s a tradition that most expect to keep.
We celebrate our country’s independence from Britain and the end of the Revolutionary War on July 4th every year. U.S. businesses give this paid holiday to 92% of workers so that they can spend the day and night having barbecues and watching the traditional fireworks displays.
Our country observes Labor Day on the first Monday in September. In 2021, it will fall on Monday, September 6. First celebrated by a labor union in New York City in the late 1800s, Labor Day is a moment for American workers which, naturally, should be a day of relaxation and organization. That’s why 91% of civilian workers get a paid holiday on Labor Day.
Thanksgiving, which is annually on the fourth Thursday in November, is one of the most popular holidays in America. People celebrate it because of tradition — but there is also a growing effort to reconcile the holiday with the history of Native American oppression in the vein of Indigenous Peoples Day. So engrained it is that it’s often considered the start of the “holiday season” in the U.S. In 2021, Thanksgiving will fall on November 25.
Day after Thanksgiving
Because Thanksgiving is so popular, many people gather with family members for parties, football games, and big meals — some of them traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to be together. This is why many employers opt to give the day after Thanksgiving, a Friday, off as well so that employees can make the most of their travel efforts or host friends and family who have come to them.
Because of Christianity’s dominance in American culture, the day that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day has become much more than a religious holiday for many. Focused on trees, presents, and togetherness, it is always celebrated on December 25 with everything from food and parties to religious ceremonies. Like Thanksgiving, it is an extremely popular paid holiday, with 97% of civilian workers getting the day off.
Much like Thanksgiving and the day after, Christmas Eve and Christmas are often treated as a pair of paid holidays for many of the same reasons. Of course, Christmas Eve falls on December 24 of every year. In 2021, it will be on a Friday.
If your budget has room for a few more paid days off, you might want to consider adding some of these holidays to your calendar:
George Washington’s birthday, or President’s Day, is a federal holiday on the third Monday of February. In 2021, it will fall on February 15 and roughly 24% of civilian workers will get it as a paid holiday.
Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Sunday. In 2021, it will fall on Friday, April 2. It is not a federal holiday, but 21% of civilian workers get the day off with pay.
Already a holiday in 47 states and D.C., there’s a push to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Already a holiday in 47 states and D.C., there’s a push to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Otherwise known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth is the day in 1865 when slaves were ordered to be freed in Texas, years after emancipation was officially proclaimed. Why not be ahead of the curve and give your workers time to celebrate a milestone in our country’s history while acknowledging how much farther there is to go?
As mentioned earlier, more and more employers are opting to give employees Election Day off. Of course, the major election in 2020 was on November 3, but there are plenty of local, state, midterm, and other elections that you can include in non-presidential election years.
Veteran’s Day falls on November 11 every year, but it can be observed on the 10th or 12th if it happens to fall on a weekend. 19% of civilian workers get a paid holiday for Veteran’s Day.
New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve is December 31, the last day of the year. Who is really getting that much work done between Christmas and New Year’s Day, anyway? 15% of civilian workers get a paid holiday this day.
If you can’t afford to add too many more paid holidays to your calendar (hey — margins are tight, especially this year), opt for allowing employees to work from home. Even though that’s probably the case anyway this year, it’s a great time to start a tradition. Even though you might need people to be working on, say, Black Friday, at least they can work from wherever it is they need to be for the holiday.