Juneteenth, a new US federal holiday! U.S. history classes always touch upon certain critical moments in the nation’s autobiography — for example, the Pilgrims’ arrival in the New World, the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War.
Through their studies, students generally know that the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, freed slaves held in the Confederate states. What they often don’t know is that the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t bring slavery to an end. In many states, the practice continued virtually unchanged — Proclamation or no Proclamation.
On June 19, 1865, federal troops descended upon Galveston, Texas. They took control of the state and ensured that every enslaved person was released. The date, referred to as Juneteenth, Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, and Emancipation Day, has been celebrated annually in many communities since.
Texas was the first to recognize the date as a state holiday in 1979, and other states followed in subsequent years. On June 17, 2021, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act was signed into law, and Juneteenth became the 11th federal holiday. This ensures that federal employees will have time off in 2021 and beyond to commemorate the extraordinary events of June 19, 1865.
Frequently Asked Questions About Federal Holidays
Nearly everyone is a fan of holidays, but managing this type of time off can be challenging for businesses. After all, client expectations don’t necessarily change during holiday weeks, which means there is still work to be done. There is also the question of pay. Many employees can’t afford unpaid time off, but businesses can’t always afford to offer holiday pay.
Here’s what you need to know when finding a balance between employee expectations and business needs.
What Are the U.S. Federal Holidays?
The addition of Juneteenth brings the number of federal holidays to 11. The remaining 10 include:
- New Year’s Day (January 1)
- Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (third Monday in January)
- Washington’s Birthday (third Monday in February)
- Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
- 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)
Are Businesses Required to Offer Time Off for All Federal Holidays?
Federal holidays are, just as they sound, days that the federal government closes. Companies in the private sector are under no obligation to make special arrangements for these dates. No federal law or regulation requires businesses to close, which leaves the handling of these holidays to your discretion. You can choose to observe all 11, or you can select a handful that are most meaningful to your team.
Are Businesses Required to Pay Employees for Holiday-Related Time Off?
If you decide to observe some or all of the federal holidays by giving your employees time off, you are not legally responsible for paying the missed time. Organizations that operate under collective bargaining agreements typically negotiate holiday pay with union representatives. Otherwise, employees agree to holiday pay practices as one of the terms and conditions of employment upon hire.
Are There Advantages to Offering Paid Time Off for Holidays?
As you consider which paid holidays to offer your employees — if any — chances are that payroll costs are your biggest concern. However, it’s important to remember that there are indirect costs associated with strict limits on paid time off.
While few employees expect paid time off for all 11 federal holidays, most count on having a chance to celebrate some of these days with their families. If you pass on paid time off for holidays altogether, you risk dissatisfied and disengaged employees — and that’s expensive.
Research shows that disengaged employees are less productive and more likely to be absent from work. Companies with high levels of disengagement are 15% less profitable than competitors with high levels of engagement, and disengaged employees cost your business approximately 34% of their total pay.
On the staffing side, the picture isn’t much better. Prospective candidates are concerned about work/life balance, and they are less likely to accept a position if your time off benefits are excessively lean. Every day that you have unfilled positions, you lose productivity, so some businesses have discovered that paid holidays offer a solid return on investment.
Best Practices for Holiday-Related Time Off Management
Once you have decided whether to offer holidays, which ones, and whether they will be paid, develop a detailed policy so your team knows what to expect. These are the points to cover:
Which Holidays Does Your Business Observe?
You can pick and choose which holidays to observe, but do this carefully. You are sending a message through this decision, and you are sure to have complaints. Companies that want to keep their paid holidays limited typically observe New Year’s Day, July 4th, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. You may wish to offer one or two floating holidays with the understanding that they can be taken on any of the omitted dates that are particularly important to individual employees.
Which Employees Are Eligible for Paid Time Off?
For example, you may decide that full-time employees are eligible for paid holiday time off and part-time employees are not. The only pitfall to avoid is creating eligibility requirements that exclude a few staff members. If just one or two people are left out, denying holiday pay breeds unnecessary ill-will.
If You Can’t Close, How Will You Decide Who Works?
One method of managing holiday assignments includes taking volunteers, then assigning unfilled shifts by seniority or through a rotation system.
How will you fairly compensate non-exempt/hourly employees who are on-call or work on a holiday?
Some companies pay employees who work holidays their regular pay for the hours they work plus the holiday pay, which gives them a little extra incentive to pick up the undesirable hours.
Simplifying Time Off Management with Time Off Cloud
Automating the time off request, approval, and tracking process keeps things simple for your employees and your management team. If you choose to add Juneteenth to your list of paid holidays, update the information in your leave program settings, and the software will handle the rest.
Holidays are meant to be opportunities to relax, celebrate, and enjoy friends and family. Keep the process of taking time off stress-free through advanced PTO tracking software with Time Off Cloud!