Expecting employees to work for the holidays? Your complete guide

Holidays can be a time to put your feet up and relax. A time to spend with family. But if you’re a business owner, they can also be one of the busiest times for sales and you may expect your employees to work for the holidays. 

If you run a retail store, you can pretty much bet that sales are going to be busy during the winter holidays. And if you run a restaurant, those holiday long weekends are going to be busy with people who don’t feel like cooking—or those who forgot to grocery shop the day before.

When you want your employees to work for the holidays you’re going to need to know what the holidays mean for your business.

In this article, we cover what bank holidays are, how to decide whether to stay open for the holidays, and some key things businesses need to think about when staffing for holidays.

What are bank holidays in the United States?

Bank holidays—or national holidays—are specific days during the year that are universally recognized as celebrations.

In the United States, there are 11 Federal bank holidays.

  • New Year’s Day (January 1)
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (third Monday in January)
  • Washington’s Birthday (third Monday in February)
  • Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
  • Juneteenth National Independence Day (June 19)
  • 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)

Federal employees get paid for these bank holidays even though their offices are closed.

But outside of federal employees? There’s no one-size-fits-all in terms of whether someone will have to work for the holidays. Some employers will give a holiday off from work—either paid or unpaidwhile others ask employees to work and give them regular pay. Some employers give a holiday premium for working on the holiday.

It can be an easy decision for some companies to give their employees time off during the holidays. They want to give their employees a break to boost morale, and days off are a great way to do that. Business News Daily says, “High employee morale is linked to increased employee engagement and productivity, and decreased employee absenteeism and turnover.”

But what if these bank holidays are the busiest time of year for your business? What if you need to stay open and work on national holidays?

From retail stores, to hospitals, to restaurants, the decision to offer time off during the holidays is much trickier.

The difference between a holiday vs. a vacation

Let’s take a second to identify the difference between a holiday and a vacation. A holiday is a special day—think Christmas or Independence Day—that’s celebrated by a large group of people. Holidays are for commemoration and celebration. 

A vacation is usually a longer period of time that an employee requests from their employer. Vacations aren’t required to be paid time off, and if you have hourly workers, they’re probably not paid. Every place of business has different rules around vacation and time off requests.

We’re going to focus specifically on the ins and outs of working for the holidays and how that can impact your business.

What is holiday pay?

Holiday pay is just what it sounds like. It’s the pay you get for a national holiday—whether you work that day or not. 

The Fair Labor Standards Act doesn’t require businesses outside of federal jurisdiction to pay for time not worked.

As a private or public employer, you can decide if:

  1. You offer your employees holiday pay even if you’re closed.
  2. You don’t offer any compensation for the holiday.
  3. You offer a holiday premium to employees working the holiday if you’re open.

If you offer a holiday premium to your workers, the standard is 1.5x their regular pay.

Do hourly employees get holiday pay when working for the holidays?

Whether hourly employees get holiday pay is up to their employers. Something to think about as an employer? Many hourly employees work positions that require them to work on bank holidays.

Think healthcare workers that provide direct care to patients. That job’s a 24/7 deal. Patients in hospitals or needing respite care still need support on holidays. Hospitality workers will need to staff front desks at hotels. Restaurant workers will need to serve customers if their restaurant’s open. Retail workers can be especially busy during the holiday season. 

While many employees get time off, hourly workers sacrifice time with their families and friends to offer incredible customer service.

And yet, employers don’t have to offer holiday pay to hourly workers. But should you?

Let’s think of it this way: offering holiday pay to your hourly employees is a gesture that can go a long way towards gaining trust and employee satisfaction.

Should your business stay open for the holidays?

There are a lot of factors to consider when trying to figure out whether your employees should work on national holidays. Our annoying answer? It depends. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

Does your business make more sales during the holiday season?

The first question to ask is, does your business get more traffic and more sales during the holiday season? In other words, would staying closed during a holiday impact your bottom line?

This can go both ways. If you don’t see an increase in business during certain holidays and you decide to stay open, you could lose money by staffing a slow day on the floor. And while some businesses are busier during holidays—think ice cream trucks during Independence Day—others definitely see a dip in sales.

Looking at past trends in sales can really help you figure out if getting your employees to work for the holidays is the right choice for your business.

Do you need to pay a holiday premium to your employees for working bank holidays?

This question kind of lines up with the last one. You’ve got some math to do. If you have to pay your employees a premium holiday rate for hours worked, is it worth it? Does the math add up? For some businesses, the answer is—absolutely!

Even though you may not be required by law to pay a holiday premium, it can be a great incentive if you’re trying to staff during a busy time or a time when people typically want to be with their families––we talk about this in our next point.

Use your sales projections to figure out if it makes financial sense to pay a premium for employees to work on national holidays.

Homebase can help you keep track of regular hours, overtime hours, and holiday pay premiums with their payroll tool. No complicated calculations needed. 

Do you have enough people to staff the busy shifts or extended hours?

Many people want to take the holidays to rest or to be with family. You’ll start to get holiday time-off requests pretty early in the year if holidays are a big deal to your employees.

A big question to ask yourself is, “Do I have a big enough team to work the busy shifts and planned extended hours?” There’s no faster way to burnout your employees than if they’re understaffed during a rush season.

What can you do about it? Well, we don’t recommend instituting a blackout period for time off, if possible. Most companies see a rise in quitting right before the holidays if employees are denied time off. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but people value spending time with loved ones over their jobs.

What you can do is offer a holiday pay premium to work the holiday shifts or you can hire seasonal staff to fill in the gaps for longer holiday seasons––like Christmas shopping weeks in retail stores.

So before you keep your doors open, make sure you can still offer incredible customer service to your clients with a full roster on the floor.

3 tools that can help you with the rush of the holidays 

You’ve decided it’s worth it: those doors are staying open for the holidays. Now what? As always: we’ve got you. Having the right marketing tools can make the holiday rush easier on both you and your team. 

Let’s dig in.

1. Use a scheduling tool to help with new seasonal hires and time off requests

If you’re dealing with a smaller team due to time off requests or are hiring for seasonal jobs, Homebase can help. Our scheduling tool allows employees to submit time off requests in the app. It’s even cloud-based which means it’ll keep your team updated on every scheduling change and any shifts up for grabs.

Want to eliminate some managerial headaches? The scheduling app can keep track of which timeslots have the highest sales. Change the schedule from anywhere so you can adjust on the fly during those busy hours—just make sure you’re staying compliant with FLSA laws.

Work holiday scheduling will be easier than ever!

2. Make team communication a breeze

Communication is key. With the possibility of seasonal hires, extended hours, time off requests, busy shifts, you’re going to need a clear way to communicate with your team and for them to communicate with each other. Never fear, Homebase is here. 

Our team communication messenger tool can keep all communication easy and in one place. Need some ideas for team communication to make your working life easier? 

Keep all your team communication in one place to make holiday work schedules way easier to manage.

3. Eliminate time clock woes

It’s easy to do. An employee forgets to clock in or out, one picks up a shift and all of a sudden slips into overtime hours, a manager double schedules a team member, or someone is late for their shift. Time clock woes can mean big trouble during the busy holiday season.

Luckily, Homebase has an app for that. The free time clock app in Homebase makes it easy to track employees’ hours and pay them correctly—even when hours and wages change during the holidays. You get late clock-in alerts, notice when an employee nears overtime, and your team can enjoy auto-clock out capabilities.

You don’t need to stay late at work trying to make the math work. We do it for you.

Work for the holidays FAQS 

What are holidays?

Holidays are special days with the goal of celebrating or commemorating an event or a person. There are 11 Federal holidays in the United States. Common holidays in the United States are Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Independence Day.

Do hourly employees get holiday pay?

Whether hourly employees get holiday pay is up to employers. It isn’t mandated by the Fair Labor Standards Act. We will say that offering holiday pay for days when your business is closed or offering a holiday pay premium if you’re open and expect your team to work goes a long way for employee morale and loyalty.

Do you need to hire seasonal employees for holidays?

Hiring seasonal employees will depend on a couple of factors: whether you’re extending your open hours, whether you have many team members requesting time off during the holidays, and if you have much more traffic to your business. Make sure you have enough coverage for shifts, otherwise it can really impact customer service and sales. 

How do you make working for the holidays easier on employees?

Employees can get burnt out if you expect them to work for the holidays. The rush, the extended hours, the new hires: it can all be a lot to process. Adding some key tools to your business can not only eliminate stress for your employees but for you as well.

Want to make the work holidays a breeze?

Homebase makes it easy to schedule and track employees hours and pay them correctly—even when hours and wages change during the holidays. 

Get started today.

Related posts

Effortlessly schedule and track your team's time with Homebase.
Try our basic plan free, forever.
Try Homebase for free