Most Employers Offering Four-Day Paid Holiday for Thanksgiving

October 29, 2003 ( - The majority of United States employers are offering a two-day paid holiday around Thanksgiving in 2003, but as budgets get tighter, that number is down from previous years.

Two-thirds of employers (67%) have designated both November 27 – Thanksgiving Day – and November 28 as paid holidays this year, down from 69% that offered the two-day paid vacation last year. This continues on a trend of a decline in the number employers offering the two-day paid Thanksgiving break that began in 2000, and represents the lowest proportion of employers giving both days off with pay since 1995, according to Washington-based legal publisher BNA’s annual survey of yearend holiday plans.

Holding to previous year patterns, though, are the virtual blanket of employers (98%) that are offering Thanksgiving Day as a paid day off for all or most of their employees. The few holdouts are concentrated mostly in employers with a majority of part-time employees and those with paid time-off systems that do not mark specific days as paid holidays.

In addition, health-care facilities are slow to prescribe paid time-off during the four-day Thanksgiving weekend. Just 11% of surveyed hospitals, nursing homes, and other health-care facilities have scheduled paid holidays for both Thanksgiving Day and the following Friday.

Other groups not getting the paid time off in totality are security and public-safety workers and service and maintenance employees. In fact, 44% of companies will still require at least some essential personnel to report to work the day after the feast, down from the 47% with these policies last year. Holiday work shifts will be especially common among health-care institutions (91%), municipalities (89%), utilities (89%) and colleges and universities (85%).

Turkey Staffing

Thanksgiving Day is even a day of work for many members of service, maintenance and public-safety staff. Nearly three out of 10 companies (27%) will ask security guards or public-safety employees to be on duty for the holiday. This is followed by service and maintenance workers that will also be on hand at more than one in five organizations (22%) and 17% of respondents that will assign holiday shifts to specialized technical staff such as computer operators, radiologists, and laboratory technicians, and the same proportion will ask managers and supervisors to postpone their holiday dinner. Other holiday calls will be put out for office/clerical employees and professional employees (16%).

For their trouble, holiday workers tend to be well-compensated for postponing their Thanksgiving celebrations. While double-time and time-and-one-half pay rates are the most common for employees working on Thanksgiving Day, some employees will receive even more generous compensation. For example, “comp time” will be offered to approximately one in three holiday workers (29%). Other companies offer:

  • workers a substitute day off with no other compensation (14%)
  • extra pay plus compensatory time (12%)
  • a choice between the two (3%).

On the other hand though, workers in the manufacturing sector are among the most likely to have a four-day holiday weekend with paid time off. More than eight out of 10 (84%) of the surveyed manufacturers will grant paid holidays for both November 27 and November 28, compared with 63% of nonmanufacturing firms and 57% of "nonbusiness" establishments, such as hospitals, schools, and municipalities. Other nonbusiness employers are also much more inclined to grant the dual holiday, such as:

  • associations (100%)
  • educational institutions (100%)
  • municipalities (84%).

Further, smaller companies tend to offer the paid four-day break in larger numbers. Approximately three-quarters (74%) of firms with less than 1,000 employees have the two-day break on the schedule, compared with just over half (53%) of larger organizations.

T-Day Trinkets

The extra paid time off is apparently viewed as enough by most employers as few workers should expect Thanksgiving gifts. In fact, only 16% of those polled plan to offer gifts, up only slightly from last year's 15%. Higher concentrations of this practice were found among manufacturers (27%) and nonmanufacturing companies (15%), compared with only 6% of nonbusiness establishments.

For those receiving a Thanksgiving trinket, turkey and food certificates were the gift of choice among the majority. Among the total sample, 6% plan to distribute turkeys to all or most workers this Thanksgiving, with the same percentage planning to send employees home with a gift certificate for groceries. Further, 4% will host a luncheon or dinner for employees to celebrate the holiday. A few organizations indicated that although they will not give gifts to the entire workforce, they would treat employees who work on the holiday to a free meal or one at a substantially reduced price.

The survey findings are based on responses from human resource and employee relations officials representing 258 employers. Of those, 30% are manufacturing companies, 36% nonmanufacturing businesses, and 34% are classified as nonbusiness establishments.