Employers Say Yes to Holiday Time Off, No to Gifts

November 3, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Employers are showing unprecedented generosity in providing Thanksgiving holiday leave, while the level of gift giving is at a 16-year low, according to BNA's annual survey of employers.

Nearly eight in 10 respondents (79%) have designated both Thanksgiving Day and the day after as paid holidays in 2009, up from 73% in 2008. According to a BNA press release, this represents the highest percentage of employers granting two-day paid Thanksgiving leave since BNA began keeping records in 1980.

Almost all surveyed employers (98%) have scheduled Thanksgiving Day itself as a paid day off for employees. While three in 10 employers (28%) will require some employees to work on Thanksgiving Day, this year marks a 16-year low in employer-required Thanksgiving work, BNA said. Security/public safety and service/maintenance staff are the most likely employee groups to be required to work on the holiday.

While holiday leave levels are high, Thanksgiving holiday gift giving is at historically low levels, the survey found. Eleven percent of employers plan to give their workers some kind of holiday gift, nearly the same percentage as in 2006 through 2008. However, the percentage of employers giving gifts is down sharply from the 23% observed in 2004, and the 15% to 18% range seen from 1995 to 2003.

For seven of the past nine years, gift certificates have been the most frequently proffered employer offering for Thanksgiving and the survey found this pattern continues in 2009. Five percent of surveyed employers will give gift certificates this Thanksgiving, with the venerable turkey, offered by 4% of employers, coming in a close second.

Other survey findings, according to the press release, included:

  • More than nine out of 10 manufacturers (95%) will treat both Thanksgiving Day and the following day as paid holidays. This compares with three out of four employers (75%) in non-business concerns (e.g., hospitals, educational facilities, and government organizations), and 71% of employers in non-manufacturing organizations.
  • Smaller organizations — those with fewer than 1,000 employees – are more likely to enjoy a four-day holiday weekend (83%) than are larger firms (64% of companies with more than 1,000 employees).
  • The proportion that will offer a four-day weekend does not differ significantly between unionized and nonunionized establishments (82% and 78%, respectively).
  • Manufacturing organizations (25%) are most generous in their gift giving, with non-manufacturing (8%) and non-business concerns (4%) trailing far behind.
  • None of the surveyed employers in unionized workplaces reported that they would give employees gifts this year, compared with 14% in nonunion establishments.
  • Gift giving this year does not differ significantly between large and small organizations.

The survey is based on responses from 315 human resource and employee relations executives representing a cross-section of U.S. employers, both public and private.