Floating Holidays

These offer the chance for flexibility for employees who might not celebrate a holiday that’s federally recognized. Jewish employees, for example, might want to take time There are a lot of holidays you can celebrate in the workplace that is going to be inherently inclusive and enjoyable for everyone. For example, if you take a look at a national awareness month calendar, you’ll find events that you can recognize among employees. Some are more serious, like October, which is Mental Illness Awareness Month. Then, there are fun events, like National Cookie Day in December. 

There are also professionally related awareness days. For example, March is when Employee Appreciation Day is recognized. 

What about how you deal with non-secular holidays, however? Every employer wants to have a diverse, inclusive workplace, so that has to extend to how you deal with holidays that are religious or cultural. 

One way you can be inclusive is to offer what is called floating holidays, which we detail more about below. 

1. The Basics of a Floating Holiday

So-called floating holidays are paid days off that every employee can decide when they’re going to take them. The name comes from the concept that it floats or moves to whatever date it is the employee decides they’re going to use it. A floating holiday is often given in addition to the traditional or conventional paid holidays employers to provide. 

Floating holidays are often used as a substitute for a public holiday, and they’re used at the discretion of the employee. 

e off for a holiday like Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah. Rather than forcing the employee to use their vacation time for religious observance, they could use a floating holiday. 

Not every employee will use a floating holiday for a day of significance, though. Most employers will let them be used whenever the employee wants, as long as they give the appropriate notice. 

2. How They Differ From Paid Time Off (PTO)

If a floating holiday sounds a lot like paid time off, that’s because the two are very similar. There are cases where a business will count them as the same type of day off. 

PTO and vacation days are usually given and added the longer someone works at a company. 

A company might start with a base amount of days for PTO, then an employee can accumulate more over time. 

The contrast at most companies with floating holidays is that they’re usually awarded at the start of the year and expire at year’s end. Once a new year start, the floating holiday cycle restarts. 

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As an example, if a company were to offer employees four floating holidays a year, but an employee only uses three, they don’t get to add an extra one the following year. 

Some companies have gone as far as offering unlimited paid time off, so in this case, as long as it’s approved and considered within reason, the employee can take the time. 

3. How Is a Floating Holiday Used?

This has been touched on a bit above, but the benefit of a floating holiday is its ability to accommodate diverse sets of interests and needs. Again, employees might use it to take the day for a holiday that isn’t otherwise part of the employer’s paid holidays, but they find to be important, whether it’s cultural or religious. 

Other people might use a floating holiday for a particular occasion, like a wedding or birthday. 

Of course, there’s also the potential for someone to use a floating holiday for no particular reason at all, aside from wanting to. 

Whether or not an employee can use a floating holiday for whatever they want depends on their employer. Some organizations will create a list of cultural, religious, and government holidays and events, and the floating holiday must be selected from that. 

Some organizations will also have blackout dates, such as during peak times, and no one is allowed to use a floating holiday during that time. 

4. Are Floating Holidays Required?

There is no law that requires any employer in the U.S. to provide paid days off for traditional holidays, like Christmas. Similarly, there’s no legal requirement to provide employees with floating holidays. 

Some unions might negotiate these holidays for members in their contracts. 

5. Why Would A Business Offer Floating Holidays?

A floating holiday may seem like something a business doesn’t even need to offer if they’re giving vacation time and other options. However, the idea of a floating holiday is a way to give employees more flexibility and allow them to take personal holidays your organization doesn’t celebrate. This is signaling to your employees that you want to be inclusive and also provide them some autonomy in their work schedule. 

Floating holidays are another way to show you prioritize work-life balance, and this can help improve performance and reduce burnout. 

Floating holidays can also be a way to extend holiday leave for Christmas, for example or some other holiday. 

The primary disadvantage that can arise when you offer floating holidays is that there may be times that it’s not ideal for certain positions to take time off. That’s something you have to consider as you’re creating your policies. 

6. How Does It Differ From PTO?

While a floating holiday isn’t tied to a particular event, you’d have to pay it out if someone were terminated based on state law and your PTO policy. Not every state requires you to pay out PTO, though. 

Alternatively, if a floating holiday is tied to a particular holiday, such as Christmas Eve, someone who ends their employment in the summer isn’t tied to a payout for that because the right to pay for Christmas Eve was conditioned on employment through that date. 

7. Setting Expectations

Finally, if you are thinking about adding floating holidays, you want to make sure you have a policy that’s clear and concise. You also want to ensure that you’ve set and defined expectations. 

For example, can employees entirely choose a day on their own, or are some days already designated? Make sure you address potential issues proactively in your policies.