The Grinch at Work: Less Paid Holidays This Year

December 16, 2004 ( - Year-end holiday plans have changed this year for many companies, and not just because of a calendar that puts both Christmas and New Years on subsequent Saturdays.

BNA’s 2004 Year-End Holiday Practices survey shows that employers are throwing more parties this year, but are offering less paid holidays. More than one-fifth (21%) of employers plan to give workers fewer than two paid holidays this holiday season, up from a minimal 2% last year. Only 33% plan to give workers three or more days off, down significantly from last year’s 65%. This can not be attributed solely to the calendar, however, since in 1999, when the holidays fell on the same day of the week as this year, 50% of employers offered three or more paid holidays.

Employers aren’t entirely cruel-hearted, however, with 85% giving Friday, December 24 as a paid holiday. Five percent will receive a half-day holiday. Only 19% will get the day before Christmas Eve as a paid holiday, while 26% will receive the same treatment the following Monday. Most employers (65%) will give Friday, December 31 as a paid holiday, which is comparable to the 1999 figures.

Employers will also demand that less essential personnel work on the two holidays, with only 35% indicating that some workers will be on hand. This is down from the last two years, when around 50% said that some poor soul would be at the office. This decline is most likely due to the calendar, BNA reported.

To compensate for their time on the holidays, many organizations (69%) will pay higher wages for workers who come in on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Manufacturing and smaller organizations are the most generous in granting such pay, with 54% of the former and 35% of the latter granting three or more paid holidays this year. In contrast, non-business sector (31%) and large firms (26%) will offer fewer paid holidays.

Despite a decrease in paid holidays this season, year-end gifts and bonuses remain a stable around this time of year, BNA reported. Forty-five percent of organizations said that they would award gifts of cash bonuses this year. Broken down, 20% will give a non-cash gift, while 33% will offer cash bonuses.

Although workers may be receiving gifts from their company, there are stricter standards for employee gift acceptance now than there was before 2004. Possibly the result of an increasing spotlight on conflict of interests at work, 13% of companies do not allow workers to accept gifts, and 56% allow gifts of only nominal value. This is up from a combined total of 58% last year.

Company parties are also becoming more common, with 79% of establishments planning a party for the coming holiday season, up 2% from last year. More formal parties jumped even more in 2004, up 10% to 65% this holiday season.

The BNA survey polled 259 HR executives across a range of industries.