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Holiday Hotline: Planning Ahead

by Jennifer Shaw and Melissa Whitehead | | December 27, 2023

For many of us, the month of December is a joyful time, full of parties, dinners, and decorations. Yet, those same festivities make December a busy time of year for us at Shaw Law Group, as we field all kinds of holiday-season-related questions from our clients. This year, we’ll share some of those questions with our faithful blog readers in a December series we’re calling the “Holiday Hotline”! For our last blog of the series, let’s talk about planning your organization’s annual holiday schedule and policy!

Dear SLG: There are so many holidays – which ones should we include in our 2024 paid holiday schedule? Are there any we must include?

The answer depends on whether you are a public or private organization. Public employers should be guided by collective bargaining agreements and legally recognized public holidays. Federal holidays are listed here, California state holidays here, and each county designates their own holidays.

Private employers may choose which holidays to observe, if any, and set applicable eligibility requirements for non-exempt employees to receive paid time off for holidays. The most commonly granted holidays in California include New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Friday after Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Employers may also be required to provide time off as an accommodation of religious holidays in certain circumstances.

Dear SLG: We are updating our holiday policy in our handbook. Do you have any tips on what we should (or must) include in our policy?

Your policy should include all of the information necessary for employees to know under what circumstances they will receive paid time off for holidays. Beyond a list of observed holidays, you should also include any eligibility requirements. For example, some employers only offer paid holidays to full-time employees with a certain amount of service under their belt.  You should also include whether employees will only receive paid holiday time if they work their regularly scheduled shifts the day before and after the holiday. Keep in mind, though, you cannot deny holiday pay if an employee takes a protected sick leave absence the day before or after the holiday.

Your policy also should include the amount of pay employees will receive on paid holidays, e.g., eight hours at their base hourly rate of pay. If you pay a premium rate for employees who work on designated holidays, you should include that information in the policy.

Finally, it is important to explain whether your organization will observe holidays that fall when you are closed for business (e.g., on a weekend), and whether employees on leaves of absences are eligible for holiday pay.


We hope you enjoyed our tips on how to approach the holiday season in your workplace! We wish all of our readers a Happy New Year!

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