how many days should you get off for the holidays

How many days off should you get for the holidays?


Paid holidays might be a privilege and not a right in the US (which, might we add, varies from most other countries where paid holidays are mandated by law), but it sure doesn’t feel like it when your BFF is getting 12 a year and you’re only getting seven. Since the major holiday season is just around the corner, now seems like the perfect time to talk about this.

More specifically – how many days should you expect to get off to celebrate holidays? And if you happen to be looking for a job right now, what can you do if the job you’re looking at doesn’t give an enticing number of vacation days off? Answers to those questions and more below, but first, let’s talk industry standards: 

The benchmark

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that when all full-time employees in the United States are taken into consideration, the average number of paid holiday days they receive per year is 7.6. This breaks down to something like this:

+ New Years Day – 1 day

+ Memorial Day – 1 day

Independence Day – 1 day

Labor Day – 1 day

Veterans Day – 1 day

Thanksgiving – 1 day

Christmas – 1 day

However, also according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, when only blue collar and service employees are measured, the average drops to 7.0 days, and when only professional and technical employees are taken into consideration the average goes up by almost a day per year, bringing it to 8.5. Where do these extra days come in? Employers may offer an extra day at Christmas or Thanksgiving or give employees their work anniversary or birthday off through their holiday policy to increase the number of paid holidays offered.

“Paid holidays off.” – anonymous employer review at Bon Secours Mercy Health

When the show must go on

In some cases, companies aren’t able to close for federal holidays and many employees must continue to work despite their leadership team ringing in the holiday with family and friends. If this is the case – if you’re taking on a new position knowing that holidays are part of the requirement – how can you ensure you still receive the benefit?

Many organizations that require 24/7 staffing, like hospitals and nursing homes, offer a combination of holiday pay and other compensation. For example, if it’s your holiday off, you get paid as if you worked, but if you have to work the holiday, you get paid time and a half or double time.

Compare the compensation you would receive if you didn’t have to work the holiday to the compensation you receive when you do work the holiday to ensure you’re being paid adequately for your sacrifice. If the overall compensation is less when you work a holiday, you may consider negotiating your holiday pay or working to initiate change on the policy.

“We have a generous benefits package which includes paid time off, holiday pay and travel benefits.” – employer statement at Eclaro

When the offer is low

Your holiday pay is part of your overall compensation package and should be taken into consideration just like salary or health insurance contributions. If you’ve received an offer for a job you’re interested in accepting but the holiday pay falls short, consider these tips:

1. The overall compensation package is more important than any single aspect, such as holiday pay. Compare the value of your current compensation package to the value of the new compensation package before attempting to negotiate or accepting/declining the offer.

2. Seek out the job that provides what you want most; sometimes that might mean taking a pay cut or cut in benefits.

3. Holiday pay is often governed by company policies and procedures, so negotiating may be difficult. Consider negotiating the salary or other benefits to compensate for the lost holidays, clearly outlining your reasoning. For example, “The compensation package looks great, but unfortunately I’m currently paid for 10 holidays annually and your policy only offers 7. If it isn’t possible to negotiate holiday pay, could I request three additional days of paid time off or an increase in salary in lieu of these holidays?”

4. Take time to read the company’s reviews on an online employer review platform like kununu before making a final decision; you can get insight into their benefits and culture from the viewpoint of current and former employees, which is often more honest and valuable than information you can gather elsewhere.


With these tips and tricks, you can make decisions backed by facts and statistics rather than emotion, improving your outcome and fighting for what matters most to you. Because there are times that you can do something about it, and in others – you just have to deal with it. 


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