December 15, 2020
Preparing Your Business for the 2021 Holidays

We are in the midst of the holiday season and approaching the New Year, which has gotten us thinking about effectively preparing your business for the holidays in 2021—and beyond. 

Did the holidays sneak up on your company this year? Maybe you’re a new business owner or new to managing employees? Perhaps you want to rework your holiday policies? Either way, it’s not too late or too early to start planning for next year. 

Below, we’re sharing: 

  • The federal holiday schedule to help you start planning ahead. 
  • Options and best practices for managing holidays as a private company.
  • Five tips for preparing your business for the holidays.

Read on and get your schedule in order now to keep your business running optimally and your employees happy. 

Dates of Federal Holidays in 2021

The Federal Government provides 10 paid holidays every year to employees. As a private employer, you may choose to provide:

  • These holidays off with pay.
  • These holidays off without pay.
  • Holiday pay for working on these days.

However, you are not legally required to offer any of these options (unless your state laws say otherwise).

Below is a list of the 2021 federal holiday schedule.

Date Federal Holiday
Friday, January 1 New Year’s Day
Monday, January 18 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Wednesday, January 20 Inauguration Day (every 4 years)
Monday, February 15 Presidents’ Day
Monday, May 31 Memorial Day
Monday, July 5 Independence Day (observed)
Monday, September 6 Labor Day
Monday, October 11 Columbus Day / Indigenous Peoples Day
Thursday, November 11 Veterans Day
Thursday, November 25 Thanksgiving Day
Friday, December 24 Christmas Day (observed)

As you’ll see above, some holidays fall on a weekend day. In the case that a holiday falls on:

  • Sunday: The holiday is usually observed on the following Monday.
  • Saturday: The holiday is usually observed on the preceding Friday.

Employers often choose to follow this same system for scheduling ease.

Managing Holidays as a Private Company

Private businesses are usually not required to close on federal holidays, pay overtime or holiday pay to employees for working a holiday, or provide PTO if they do close on a holiday. It is essential to check with your Department of Labor for state and local laws, which may include different guidelines on holiday leave and pay requirements.

If you don’t already, you should have a holiday policy in place that defines all of the above. We’ll expand on that a bit more later.

SHRM’s 2016 Paid Leave in the Workplace survey found that 90% or more of organizations planned to observe the following holidays in 2017 by closing their offices:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

Additional Holidays

Some employers choose to provide additional holidays like Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. The SHRM survey found that 62% of businesses planned to close on Christmas Eve, and 44% intended to close on New Year’s Eve. Fifteen percent said they would close for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Due to their industries or the nature of their work, some companies must stay open on holidays. Fifty-seven percent of respondents on the SHRM survey stated that they pay a premium (i.e., time-and-a-half, double-time, or overtime) for employees who work on a holiday. Another option is to provide staff with floating holidays.

5 Tips for Preparing Your Business for the 2021 Holidays

1. Establish a clear holiday vacation policy.

Every employer should have a holiday policy that outlines: 

  • Which days your offices will close.
  • What kind of system you’ll use for requesting time off around the holidays (e.g., first-come-first-served or seniority-based).
  • How far in advance employees need to request time off.
  • If employees will receive PTO or unpaid time on holiday closures.
  • If and how time worked on the holidays will be compensated.

Make this clear in the policy to set expectations and avoid conflicts when scheduling time off around the busy holidays.

2. Set your holiday schedule and staff accordingly.

Make your holiday schedules in advance. Will you have extended operating hours? Or will you be closing for a few days? Do you expect a rush? Answering all of these questions will help you decide how much staffing you’ll need.

Next, be sure to communicate those holiday schedules with your employees early. Define any expectations, discuss scheduling as a team, and ask them to submit PTO requests by a specific date so you can plan the schedule accordingly.

3. Hire and train seasonal employees.

If you do plan on offering extended hours and realize you’ll need extra staff during the holiday rush, you might consider bringing on seasonal help. 

Hire and train seasonal employees early enough to ensure efficiency during the peak of the holiday season. You want them to help ease and smooth the busy time for the rest of your team and your customers. Without proper training, seasonal staffers could be more of a hindrance than a help.

Additionally, seasonal employees can increase liabilities like accidents and theft in your company. When you start the hiring process early enough, you’ll have ample time to screen applicants and train the temporary hires on workplace safety.

4. Develop your marketing strategy in advance.

Developing your strategy ahead of time will help you know what promotions you’re running and when. Of course, you should be using data from prior years to determine what worked best. Did that last holiday campaign drive traffic—either foot or digital?

Decide which channels you’ll use for your holiday campaigns. This will influence what tools you need and what kind of professionals, either internal or outsourced, will need to be on top of the campaigns to ensure they run smoothly. If something breaks or goes awry mid-promotion, who will be responsible for fixing it?

All of the above could also affect what kind of staffing you’ll need around each holiday and when to expect rushes in your business.

5. Plan team-building and morale-boosting activities.

Particularly during the winter months, morale can dip low while stress rises high. End-of-year requirements at work often clash with personal stressors like gift shopping and holiday events. Consider how you can help your team feel festive by:

  • Asking your staff what they want. It may not be a big office party, which often feels like another obligation on their already-busy schedules. Consider a fun and affordable gift exchange or another simple celebration instead.
  • Being inclusive by representing the different cultures and traditions of those on your team. Remember, not everyone celebrates Christmas! Make everyone feel welcome and celebrated.
  • Performing a charitable act as a team. Volunteer together or hold a donation event, such as a toy or coat drive or an Angel Tree (each participating employee chooses an underprivileged family to donate a gift to). 

Prepare Your Business for the 2021 Holidays

The key to maintaining a smoothly functioning workplace and content employees around the holidays is to plan ahead. Decide which holidays your company will observe and communicate clearly with your staff with a policy and annual planning. 

If you need help developing a holiday policy or managing employee holiday time, BlueLion’s experts will be happy to help. Contact us today at 603-818-4131 or to learn more!

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.