Holidays as Benefits

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Today we have a guest editorial from Andy Warren as Steve is traveling away from the office.

Here in the US federal employees will get ten paid holidays this year. Many in the private sector will get the same because they do business with local, state, or federal agencies and if the customer is closed, then they can close also. Many in the private sector won’t get the same ten days, some will get fewer, and some may get a day or two more. For some companies the day after Thanksgiving is an ‘unofficial’ holiday that doesn’t require taking a vacation day.

Those holidays are part of our benefits and combined with sick leave and vacation are how we get a break from work to recharge and enjoy family. We tend to take those holidays for granted – did you ever ask on an interview about the holiday plan? Does the office close on holidays? Are employees expected to work on certain holidays? Is the end of year a quiet time or when all the work gets done (because the customers are on vacation)? I was reminded of this when a friend changed jobs last year, making his last day at the old job a Friday, and only finding out that week that the following Monday was a paid holiday for the old employer but not for the new employer!

A team I work with now has converted four holidays to floating personal days – essentially vacation – and removing four minor holidays from the holiday schedule. That’s an interesting strategy for a company that needs to provide coverage. Employees don’t lose net days off because the company wants to be open on certain holidays and employees are unlikely to argue over who gets to take the day off for Washington ’s Birthday.

Are holidays job trivia? No. It’s all about the value of the day, something you learn quickly as a consultant when you bill by the hour and the client is closed for a holiday. Everyone else gets paid, you try to find something else billable to do for the day. That’s not unfair because the fee charged by the consultant includes something towards netting out at an amount earned per year that covers those “non-working” days.

Holidays are part of the benefit package and while you probably can’t negotiate them, you can make sure you understand what the company offers before you take the job. Are they ever a deal breaker? I bet rarely, but maybe – I’m disinclined to work anywhere that requires me to work on Thanksgiving. Holidays are part of the benefits package, so make sure you look at more than just salary the next time you change jobs.

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