Do you have to work on holidays—and if so, will you be paid extra? Employees often ask if they’ll have to work on days that many workers have off, and whether they’re entitled to overtime pay if they work holidays.
When it comes to questions about having to work on a holiday and holiday pay, there isn't one response that covers all workers. Some employees will get a holiday off from work (either paid or unpaid), others will have to work for regular pay, and some employees may be paid extra for working on the holiday.
Working on a Holiday
Whether you have to work on a holiday depends on whom you work for, whether you are covered by a union contract, and company policy regarding holidays.
If you work for the federal government, you'll get 11 paid holidays each year including New Year's Day, Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., Washington's Birthday (also known as President’s Day), Memorial Day, Juneteenth National Independence Day (June 19), Independence Day (4th of July), Labor Day, "Columbus Day" (also observed as Indigenous Peoples Day), Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. In addition, federal workers who are based in the Washington, D.C., area have a paid day off during the Presidential Inauguration.
Many private employers follow the same holiday schedule and also provide holiday days off or holiday pay for working on a holiday. Others offer only some of these holidays off or offer holiday pay on only some of those holidays.
Full-time federal employees are legally entitled to an “in lieu of” holiday when a holiday falls on a non-workday, such as a Saturday or Sunday. Private employers may also provide these holidays. Often, the holiday will be acknowledged on the closest workday before or after the non-workday, such as a Friday or Monday, for example.
Companies are not required to give you holidays off from work or pay you for holiday time off.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require payment for time not worked, such as vacations or holidays. These benefits are generally an arrangement between an employer and an employee or the employee's representative i.e. a union or other collective bargaining agent.
What Is Holiday Pay?
Holiday pay is paid for holidays, like Christmas Day, or other time worked when a business is closed or the employee is permitted to take holiday time off.
Employers are not required to pay extra (over and above your normal rate) for working on a holiday unless you have a contract that stipulates holiday pay. Companies aren't required to give you the holiday off from work either.
In general, if you are a salaried worker, you will not receive extra pay or overtime for working on a holiday. Employees in retail and hospitality positions often do not receive a special holiday rate, as holiday and weekend shifts are part of their normal business hours.
Some employers provide holidays off or pay extra for working on a holiday; however, there are no federal or state laws that require companies to compensate you for holidays off or to pay you extra (over and above your normal hourly rate) for working on a holiday. The only exception is if you have a contract that stipulates holiday pay.
Private companies have considerable leeway in the benefits they provide and may offer financial incentives to workers who will choose to work on holidays.
Independent contractors and freelance workers have the ability to negotiate their own benefits and can stipulate special rates for work done on holidays with the firms who employ their services.
Employees Who Qualify for Holiday Pay
There are, however, many workers who do qualify for special holiday pay. If you are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, work in a civil service position, or work for an employer who provides overtime for working on a holiday, you may be eligible for holiday pay.
In some cases where the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts are applicable, employers are required to pay certain workers holiday pay depending on their classification and contract. Similarly, government contracts like the McNamara O’Hara Service Contract (SCA) require holiday pay and benefits when the contracts surpass $2,500.
Overtime and Holiday Pay
If you would be working overtime by working the holiday, and are entitled to overtime pay, you would be compensated at the overtime rate. Non-exempt employees who work over 40 hours in a workweek must be compensated at one and a half times their usual pay.
You should discuss holiday pay with your supervisor or Human Resources representative when you begin a job in which you can expect to work holiday shifts.
When a Holiday Falls on a Weekend
The timing of when holidays are observed in the workplace varies. When a holiday falls on a weekend, holidays falling on a Sunday would be observed on Monday, while those that fall on a Saturday are generally observed on Friday before.
Holiday Work Schedules
Companies typically publish a list of holidays they observe at the beginning of each year. Check with your manager or your Human Resources department to get an upcoming holiday schedule for the current year or for future years.
Questions About Your Schedule or Pay
If you have questions about your work schedule or holiday pay, or would like to request a holiday off from work, check with your manager or your Human Resources department as early as you can. The more notice you give your employer, the more flexibility they will have to try to accommodate your request.
There Is No Federal Law Requiring Employers to Provide Holidays or Holiday Pay: To determine your employer’s holiday schedule, see the company handbook or HR.
Federal Workers Are Entitled to 10 Paid Holidays: The day of the Presidential Inauguration is also a paid holiday for federal workers.
Nonexempt Employees May Be Entitled to Overtime Pay for Working on Holidays: But typically, only if working on the holiday means that they’re working more than 40 hours in a workweek.
The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.