A Guide to Holiday Pay for Your
Business

Anyone who’s either held a job or had to pay a team around the holidays knows that it’s a tricky time for calculating paychecks.

Will you have to work during Christmas or the Fourth of July? Do you need to pay your employees while they’re not working at Thanksgiving? Can you still work if you don’t partake in turkey carving?

There tends to be lots of red tape around making money during the holidays, but that’s where the festive magic of holiday pay steps into play.

Holiday pay is any business owner’s answer to “What happens when Christmas falls on a Monday?” and the many other holiday-adjacent questions you’ll get from your employees.

We’re going to unpack everything you need to know about holiday pay — the laws associated with it, employee and business owner requirements, policies, and a few other things — here for you in this guide. Let’s fire up that sleigh and unpack the fireworks and start talking about holiday pay!

holiday pay

What is Holiday Pay?

This one’s a bit self-explanatory, but we still need to cover it in case you’re new to all of this.
Holiday pay is when an employer makes it possible for their team members to continue earning their regular salary while on a holiday break or vacation. The most wonderful time of year, indeed!
What many don’t know is that holiday pay is actually a gift from an employer because paying your employees for any holiday isn’t legally required of any business in the United States. But, as a business, providing holiday pay is a great way to show that you truly value your team members, which is why several companies choose to do this.
holiday pay laws

Holiday pay laws

Here are the answers to a few common questions you might have:
  • Do I legally have to pay my employees on the holidays?
    Nope. Legally speaking, holidays are looked at as just another business day in the United States. Holidays like Thanksgiving, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Christmas are considered federal holidays by the government mainly because they apply to employees of the federal government. So, for privately-owned companies, it’s up to the boss to decide what to do. Employers do, however, have to pay their full-time employees if they are using their paid time off.
  • If my employees work on a federal holiday, do I have to pay them overtime?
    Unfortunately for your team, it is not a requirement to pay them overtime on holidays. Nothing is stopping you from doing this if you’re feeling extra generous this holiday season, but that’s up to you. If you’re feeling more Grinch-like, no one can stop you from pinching pennies (or stop all of your employees from talking about buying you coal this year).
  • What if I manage hourly employees? Do I need to pay them on holiday?
    If your team is primarily non-exempt employees (those who are paid hourly), then no, you have no legal obligations to pay them on the holidays. Again, if you’re feeling kind and want to, we’re sure they’d appreciate it.
  • What about religious holidays? Are there any rules around those?
    This one’s a bit tricky if you’re not careful. If you choose not to give someone time off for a religious holiday, it can be considered religious discrimination in some cases. However, when your employees are asking for the time off, they do need to give ample notice. If they don’t, there is a case to reject a religious discrimination claim, but that’s a whole other situation entirely.
    Your best bet is to proactively work with your employees to know every day in the calendar year that they might need off and see if that works for the company to try and come to some agreement.
Now, it should be noted that all this information is based on employment in the U.S. If you live in another country, it looks a little different.
Canada
The UK
In the great white north, holiday pay is referred to as Statutory pay, and — other than handing out a Molson and a pack of Timbits to each employee — there are a few rules that need to be followed.
If you run a team of full-time employees, then you are mostly required to give them time off and pay them on all the following holidays:
  • New Year’s Day
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Monday
  • Victoria Day
  • Canada Day
  • Labour Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Remembrance Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day
The exception to this rule is that some businesses may still choose or are required to stay open (such as hospitals or other on-call staff).
If your team does work on any of these holidays, you as the business are required to pay them overtime (normally one-and-a-half to two times their regular wage) and may even have to give them an additional day off.
Thanks, Canada!
Known as holiday entitlement in jolly old England, paying your employees in the U.K. is rather straightforward. Well, if you consider math straightforward, that is.
Legally, almost all full-time workers are allowed to have 5.6 weeks of holiday pay a year, which comes out to 28 days.
Part-time workers get a similar amount of time, but since they work fewer days a week, they would also get fewer days off.
For example, if you work four days a week, rather than five, you’d only get the equivalent of 4-day weeks’ worth of time off per year. So, rather than 28 days, you’d only get 22.4.
If you run a company or have a job where your team works irregular hourly jobs, then they’re also entitled to holiday hours. For these kinds of jobs, you are allowed paid time off for every hour that your team works. So, if your barista works 40 hours, then they are allowed 40 hours of holiday pay.
People working irregular hours (like shift workers or term-time workers) are entitled to paid time off for every hour they work.
Regardless of the kind of job you have, you get paid time off, which is excellent for those U.K.-ers out there.
As you can see, holiday pay is treated differently depending on where you live. If you’re not sure what the policy is for your area, and we didn’t cover it above, be sure to do your research before writing a holiday pay policy for your business
Speaking of holiday pay policies, let’s take a look at how those work.

Holiday pay policies

Since, in the United States, you’re not legally required to do much for your employees on holidays, you can be as stingy or generous with the holiday pay as you like. Either way, it’s a good idea to have some policies in place for when your employees ask.
A good place to start is with the federal holidays. It’s pretty standard for your business to have some or most of these holidays off — Christmas and Thanksgiving are a good example of these. But, if you still want people to work on Columbus and Groundhog Day, that’s entirely up to you.
set holiday pay policies

How to set holiday pay policies

The best place to start is by outlining the specifics of your holiday policies. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help figure these out:
  • What dates will you set as paid holidays, and which will not be?
  • How are those holidays going to work or be observed if they happen to fall on a weekend versus during the work-week?
  • Which of your employees — full time, hourly, part-time — will be eligible for paid holidays?
  • Will you give any special rates for those employees who work on paid holidays?
  • Will you set aside any bonuses for your team on those paid holidays?
Once you’ve got that figured out, the next part will be a piece of almost-stale-fruit-cake.
Holiday policies for full-time salaried employees

Holiday policies for full-time salaried employees

Again, holiday pay isn’t required in the U.S., but it’s still pretty standard to give your full-time team members some paid time off for some holidays each year.
Here’s a simple list of the holidays most businesses give as paid days off:
Standard paid holidays
Other commonly paid holidays
  • New Year’s Day
  • Easter
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • The Friday after Thanksgiving
  • Christmas Day
  • New Year’s Eve
  • President’s Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday
  • Veterans’ Day
  • Christmas Eve
If you do have team members that are required to work on a holiday, they may ask or even demand overtime for the holiday work — which is a fair thing to ask. So, consider whether or not you'll offer this.
A standard rate for overtime would be time-and-a-half, so if someone on your team makes $40,000 a year, you'd need to make sure to pay them for 1.5x their normal pay for that day or week of holiday pay. If you're confused by how to calculate that accurately, don't worry, we'll give you some helpful tools to help you out.
holiday pay for part-time employees

Holiday pay for part-time employees

The previous list of merriment still applies to part-time employees, so consult that list of holidays.
Now, part-time employees don't usually receive the same benefits that full-timers do, but, as with everything else here, it's up to the business owners.
Choosing whether or not to give part-time employees overtime for working holidays or just paying them to have holidays off is something you need to consider when looking at what sets apart everyone at the company. It may be that you want everyone to have the same perks or that you think it'd be best to save paid holidays for full-time employees.
Whatever you decide, make sure to be consistent. Once you set your holiday pay policy in place, there shouldn't be any confusion as to who gets what.
Holiday pay for hourly employees

Holiday pay for hourly employees

Hourly employees are a different thing entirely. It's rather common for those working in retail or food service to have to work holidays in the U.S., but of course, that isn't always true. As a result, you have a few options here.
You could choose to give those who work on holidays time-and-a-half for their willingness to work the holidays. Alternatively, you could provide holiday workers a bonus of some kind like an extra vacation day (if you offer those) or an additional $200 in their paycheck that month.
Typically, for hourly non-exempt jobs, you'll need to have people request time off for the holidays if you are, in fact, open on those days. This is where your policy comes in handy. If everyone wants Christmas off, and you need to be open Christmas Eve, then you obviously can't give everyone that time off. You can either choose to do the seniority method — those who've been with the company longer get first pick — or to go with the first-come-first-served process. Either way, making sure to outline that in your holiday pay policy is essential so that everyone knows what to expect.
template

Create your own holiday pay policy with our free template

Now, you need to write it all down.
That's right, you’ll want a real document. Or, at least it should be if you want people to abide by it. Once you have it in place, you can slide this festive document into your business's handbook so that everyone knows what to be aware of come holiday season.
In your holiday policy document you need to outline a few things, including your stance on holiday pay, what happens when holidays are on the weekend, which holidays your business will observe, and any other notes you want everyone to be clear on.
If you're not sure where to start, we've made this handy sample holiday pay policy doc to get you started.
Now, you need to write it all down.
Here at [COMPANY NAME], we recognize the following holidays as paid holidays, and we choose to honor them as a day off for all our employees. This means that you will not have to work the holidays listed below and will receive your compensation per usual as if you had worked that day.
If one of the following holidays falls on a weekend, our HR department or management will be sure to let everyone know whether the preceding Friday or following Monday will serve as the observed holiday.
The holidays that [COMPANY NAME] chooses to observe are:
  • New Year's Day
  • New Year's Eve
  • Easter
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day (4th of July)
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • The Friday after Thanksgiving
  • Christmas Eve
  • Christmas Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
If, for some reason, you need to work one of the holidays listed above, you will have the option of either receiving an additional day off to replace the one you worked or receiving pay at time-and-a-half for the holiday worked.
Hourly employees, please note that you must request time off and have it approved by your manager in advance to have time off. On days that we are closed for a holiday, you do not have to work. If we are open, you are scheduled as normal unless otherwise noted by a manager. If you do have to work on a holiday, you will be compensated with 1.5x your regular hourly salary.
Once you’ve got your policy in place, you need to be sure to enforce it. Ask your employees to give you notice if you’re requiring it and make sure that everyone is following what you’ve laid out, including yourself. A policy means nothing if the owner doesn’t lead by example.
hubstaff

How Hubstaff can help with holiday pay

There are several tools out there that you can figure out holiday pay for everyone on your team — including doing it manually — but we (biasedly) recommend Hubstaff.
Hubstaff is a robust timesheet software and payroll solution for any sized business. Hubstaff tracks your team's time and productivity and makes it easy to pay everyone for all their hard work at the end of the pay period.
Hubstaff also makes holiday pay super simple. With our easy-to-use app, you can create single or recurring holidays for your business and choose who's allowed to bill during them. So, if you manage both full-time staff and contract roles, you can select who's eligible for holiday pay.
hubstaff payroll
Additionally, you can easily set holiday pay rates, so if you decide to give your team time-and-a-half for the holidays, Hubstaff will automatically pay them for those set dates.
set holiday pay hours
Once you’ve got that all set up, you can update your employee schedule within Hubstaff so you’ll know who’s working over that holiday or who’s on vacation. Learn more about Hubstaff’s scheduling feature.
Hubstaff wants to ensure holiday pay isn't complicated, so you, too, can enjoy the holidays without worrying about any extra admin work.

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