What Are The Paid Holidays By Law?


The main purpose and goal of any business are to generate a profit. However, making sure that you are following employment laws and providing your employees with the appropriate paid days off is essential to avoid any grievances. 

You may have just opened your business or expanded it and wondering what days are defined as paid holidays according to the law. In this guide, we have provided you with everything you need to know regarding paid holidays, so that you can run your business with no issues. 

Also read: The Most Effective Employee Retention Strategies for Keeping Your Best Talent

Table Of Contents

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Which Days Are Recognized as Paid Holidays?

In the United States, there are ten days that are recognized as paid holidays. These days are known as federally-recognized holidays as they have been acknowledged by the government as national holidays. 

These days are:

  • January 1 – New Year’s Day

  • Third Monday in January – Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday

  • Third Monday in February – Washington’s Birthday

  • Last Monday in May – Memorial Day

  • July 4 – Independence Day

  • First Monday in September – Labor Day

  • Second Monday in October – Columbus Day

  • November 11 – Veterans’ Day

  • Fourth Thursday in November – Thanksgiving Day

  • December 25 – Christmas Day

There are also some additional holidays depending on the location such as Inauguration Day, which is classed as a paid holiday in the Washing D.C. metro area. Inauguration Day takes place every four years on January 20, but if this day is on a Sunday, it is moved to the following Monday. 

These holidays are described as federally-recognized, meaning that non-essential businesses will be closed, and the stock market does not trade, while also ensuring that the employees are paid, even when they are not working. 

Also read: Ways In Which You Can Show Employees You Are Thankful

Are Employees Automatically Entitled to These Days off Work?

Whether an employee is entitled to these days off is based on what kind of business they work for. The two types of employer are federal employers and private sector employers. We’ll delve into the differences between these two now:

Federal Employers

Firstly, federal employees are provided with the above days off on full pay as the non-essential federal offices will be closed on the federally-recognized holidays.

There are some federal offices that will need to work on the federal holidays. In these instances, the employees will be aware of this and will have a replacement day off at another time to make up for it. 

There are certain exceptions that you need to be aware of. These are:

  • Employees who only work via an intermittent schedule including daily, hourly, or piece-work. 

  • Part-time employees are not paid for any holiday days that they were never scheduled to work. 

Also read: A Guide On How to Continue Hiring During a Pandemic

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Private-Sector Employers

If you are an employee in the private sector, then things are completely different as private sector employers aren’t required by law to provide the federally-recognized holidays off. However, the majority of them do offer some holidays off. 

The majority of private-sector employers will offer the following holidays days off:

  • January 1 – New Year’s Day

  • Last Monday in May – Memorial Day

  • July 4 – Independence Day

  • First Monday in September – Labor Day

  • Fourth Thursday in November – Thanksgiving Day

  • December 25 – Christmas Day

Here are the federally-recognized holidays that private-sector employers do not typically offer as a paid day off:

  • Third Monday in January – Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday

  • Third Monday in February – Washington’s Birthday

  • Second Monday in October – Columbus Day

  • November 11 – Veterans’ Day

This isn’t to say that private-sector employers never offer these days off as a paid holiday for their employees, but it is uncommon that they do offer all ten days off paid. However, this will all be made clear in the employee handbook.

Also read: Promoting A Culture Of Accountability At Workplace - How Can Businesses Achieve It?


Are There Any Religious Holidays Included?

When it comes to religious holidays, this will be determined on an individual basis, according to the day in question that the person is observing. Oftentimes, the employee handbook will advise what employees should do in this instance, but it is important to note that federal and private employers operate differently when it comes to religious holidays.

Federal Employers

Federal employers are more inclined to allow an employee to have a religious holiday as a paid day off if the employee offers a legitimate reason. If they can’t, then this violates the separation between the church and state. 

Private Employers

Private employers are not as inclined to allow employees to have religious holidays as a paid day off as they legally don’t have to. However, private employers that observe a specific religion may choose to close the office on a particular day for all staff and class it as paid time off. 

Also read: 8 Steps To Create An Effective Employment Development Plan For Your Small Business And Its Benefits

Do Employees Receive Any Additional Pay When Working Holidays?

For those who work within the federal sector, you will most likely receive the holidays off with pay. However, if your federal office is deemed essential, and you are required to work on any of these given holidays then you will be offered a replacement day off rather than additional pay for working on the holiday. 

On the other hand, when it comes to the private sector, there is no legal requirement for employers to offer additional pay or a day off as per the Fair Labor Standards Act, known as the FLSA, which declares that private-sector employers are not required to pay their employees for any time that isn’t worked. 

There are some private-sector employers that will offer additional pay such as double time in order to incentivize their employees to work on holidays.



In conclusion, there are certain days that are federally-recognized holidays and if you work in a non-essential federal office, you will be entitled to these days off with full pay. If you work in an essential federal office that is open on any of these days, you will be entitled to a replacement day off.

For those in the private sector, the employer may give you all or some of the federally-recognized holidays off as paid depending on their own preference, but they are not as bound by the red tape as the federal employers are and therefore, they can allow paid time off on an individual basis. 

HR is a vital part of any company and it is important to keep it managed currently. Pay stubs are also vital for a company and to ensure they are distributed properly you would use something like our pay stub generator.

Frequently Asked Questions

This depends on the country's labor laws and the company's policy. In some countries, part-time employees may be entitled to pro-rated paid holidays based on the number of hours they work per week. It's essential to check local regulations and company policies to determine eligibility.

There may be exceptions depending on the country's labor laws, such as specific industries or job types that are exempt from paid holiday requirements. It is essential to check local regulations for any exceptions that may apply to your employment situation.

Employees cannot be fired for taking a paid holiday if it is mandated by law. However, employees should adhere to company policies regarding requesting and scheduling time off to avoid potential conflicts.

Employers may require employees to work on holidays, depending on the nature of the job and the company's needs. However, employees who work on a holiday may be entitled to additional compensation or a substitute day off, depending on the country's labor laws and company policies.

If a holiday is mandated by law, an employer cannot refuse to provide it. However, if the paid holiday is not required by law, the employer may choose not to offer it. It is essential to check local regulations and company policies to determine which holidays are legally required.

To find out which paid holidays are mandated by law in your country, consult your government's labor department or ministry website. Additionally, speak with your employer or consult your employee handbook for information on company-specific policies.

Pay calculation may vary depending on the country and company policy. Generally, employees receive their regular rate of pay for the hours they would have worked on the holiday. Some companies may offer additional compensation or overtime rates for employees who work during the holiday.

Paid holidays by law are specific holidays during which employers are required to compensate their employees even if they do not work on those days.

If a paid holiday falls on a weekend or an employee's day off, the employer may provide a substitute day off or additional pay, depending on the country's labor laws and company policies.

This depends on the country and its labor laws. In the United States, there are no federally mandated paid holidays. However, some states have specific holidays that must be paid. In other countries, such as Canada, the UK, and Australia, there are national holidays by law that are paid.
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What Are The Paid Holidays By Law?
Samantha Clark

A Warrington College of Business graduate, Samantha handles all client relations with our top-tier partners. Read More

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