What’s a federal holiday?
Federal holidays are paid days off for federal government workers. There are 11 federal holidays as legislated in 5 U.S. Code § 6103.
- New Year’s Day: January 1
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: third Monday of January
- President’s Day (George Washington’s Birthday): third Monday of February
- Memorial Day: last Monday in May
- Juneteenth: June 19
- Independence Day: July 4
- Labor Day: first Monday in September
- Indigenous Peoples’ Day (also observed as Columbus Day): second Monday in October
- Veterans Day: November 11
- Thanksgiving Day: fourth Thursday in November
- Christmas Day: December 25
What happens when a federal holiday falls on a weekend?
Because most government offices are closed on weekends, the government observes any federal holidays that fall on a Saturday or Sunday in lieu on the nearest weekday. This observance is for pay and leave purposes.
- A federal holiday that occurs on a Saturday is observed on the preceding Friday
- A federal holiday that occurs on a Sunday is observed on the following Monday
Occasions that aren’t considered federal holidays
Except for Christmas, federal holidays don’t include religious occasions observed by particular faiths, such as Easter (Christianity), Eid-al-Fitr (Islam), Rosh Hashanah (Judaism) and Diwali (Hinduism, Sikhism).
State and regional holidays are also excluded from the list of federal holidays. Mardi Gras Day in Louisiana, Arbor Day in New England and Statehood Day in Hawaii are all examples of locally observed holidays. And though Columbus Day (also known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day) is a federal government holiday, meaning all federal offices are closed, not all states grant it as a day off work.
How paid holidays benefit your business
The Fair Labor Standards Act oversees workplace practices such as minimum wage and overtime. While the act doesn’t require businesses to provide federal holidays as days off to staff, many private employers do so as part of their company benefits package.
On average, 77% of civilian workers are given paid holidays by their employers, with an average of about eight holidays per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS defines civilian workers as non-federal employees who work in private industry, state and local government.
Data from the BLS also reveals that it costs private industry employers an average of $2.91 for every employee hour worked to provide paid holidays. But this cost is offset by many intangible benefits. A reasonable time-off policy, including paid holidays, helps you to:
- Build goodwill among staff
- Boost employee satisfaction
- Recruit new staff by offering attractive benefits
- Prevent employee burnout, which can lead to frustration, lack of motivation and reduced productivity
Which federal holidays should you give as paid days off?
It’s important to have a formal company policy in place regarding paid holidays so it’s clear to your staff which ones are included.
In 2018, the National Compensation Survey collected data to see how many private industry employees received federal holidays off. The most popular paid holidays were Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, with 97% of employees in private businesses receiving this benefit. The least common paid days off were Veterans Day (11%) and Washington’s Birthday/President’s Day (19%).
Here’s a breakdown of holidays commonly provided as paid days off and the percentage of private industry employees receiving this benefit:
- Christmas Day: 97%
- Thanksgiving: 97%
- Independence Day: 94%
- Labor Day: 91%
- New Year’s Day: 90%
- Memorial Day: 89%
- Day after Thanksgiving: 39%
- Christmas Eve: 26%
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: 24%
- Washington’s Birthday/President’s Day: 19%
- Good Friday: 19%
- New Year’s Eve: 14%
- Veterans Day: 11%
When crafting your company holiday policy, be sure to consider local or regional holidays recognized by your state. Examples include Lincoln’s Birthday in eight states (February 12) and Bennington Battle Day (August 16) in Vermont.
While state holidays are provided as paid days off to state employees, and often to city employees by local government, they’re not required to be given by private employers in most states. However, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are examples of states that do have requirements regarding paid holidays. Additionally, in the Washington, D.C. area, federal employees are entitled to a holiday on the day a President is inaugurated on January 20th (with some exceptions) for each fourth year. Check with your state labor laws to ensure compliance.
You may also want to give your staff the option of celebrating religious or cultural holidays of their choice. Floating holidays are flexible days off that let employees mark occasions that are important to them without using vacation time.
List of federal holidays 2023
Planning ahead? Here’s a list of 2023 federal holidays and the dates they’re observed by the federal government.
- Monday, January 2, 2023: New Year’s Day (observed in lieu)
- Monday, January 16: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
- Monday, February 20: George Washington’s Birthday
- Monday, May 29: Memorial Day
- Monday, June 19: Juneteenth (observed in lieu)
- Tuesday, July 4: Independence Day
- Monday, September 04: Labor Day
- Monday, October 09: Indigenous Peoples’ Day (Columbus Day)
- Friday, November 10: Veterans Day
- Thursday, November 23: Thanksgiving Day
- Monday, December 25: Christmas Day
Federal holidays FAQs
Do you have to give employees federal holidays off?
No. Only the federal government is required to provide federal holidays as paid time off to employees. There’s no legal requirement for private businesses to give federal holidays as paid time off to their employees.
Do different states have different holidays?
Yes. Some states recognize holidays that are different from federal holidays and unique to the region. Examples of state holidays include Texas Independence Day, DC Emancipation Day, Alaska Day and West Virginia Day.
These are provided as paid days off to state employees, and in many cases, by local government to city or municipal employees.
What happens when a federal holiday falls on an employee’s day off?
If you provide a federal holiday as paid time off to your staff, and it falls on a day the employee isn’t normally working, you can follow the federal government’s lead and give another day off in lieu. Federal holidays that land on a weekend are observed as a day off, for leave and pay purposes, on either Friday or Monday.