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Survey: The Show Must Go On
As Holidays Fall Mid-Week

December 20, 2013

Christmas and New Year’s fall on Wednesdays in 2013-14, prompting some employers to offer less generous holiday schedules than in 2012-13, according to Bloomberg BNA’s latest annual survey of employers’ year-end holiday plans. Still, more than half of the responding employers have scheduled at least three paid days off for the holiday season this year, down only modestly from last year, when the national holidays fell on Tuesdays.
Bloomberg BNA Holiday survey

Although Christmas and New Year’s Days have been designated as paid holidays at all but a handful of organizations, some workers will find themselves on the job on the national holidays. Nearly two-fifths of all responding organizations will impose holiday work shifts on Dec. 25, Jan. 1 or both.

The Bloomberg BNA survey has found little change in holiday gifts and bonuses from employers over the past several years. Holiday party-giving remains prominent, though somewhat less so than in the years just prior to the Great Recession.

This year’s Bloomberg BNA survey is based on responses from 621 human resources professionals and executives representing a broad cross-section of U.S. employers, both public and private.


Three or more paid days off have been scheduled for the 2013-14 holiday season by just over half of the responding establishments (52 percent), down from 59 percent in 2012-13 to the same level as in 2002-03 (52 percent), the last time Christmas and New Year’s fell in the middle of the week. All but a handful of employers (3 percent) have scheduled at least two paid days off for the Christmas/New Year’s season.

Holiday schedules again will be more generous in manufacturing than in other industry sectors. More than three out of four surveyed manufacturers (77 percent) have scheduled paid days off in addition to Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, compared with roughly half of nonmanufacturing businesses (47 percent) and 43 percent of nonbusiness organizations, such as hospitals, municipalities and schools.

Despite the near-universal designation of both Christmas and New Year’s Days as paid days off, some employees must report to work on the national holidays. Nearly two-fifths of the responding organizations (37 percent) will impose holiday work shifts on Dec. 25 (34 percent), Jan. 1 (37 percent) or both. Employees of hospitals, municipalities and other nonbusiness establishments (60 percent) are far more likely to pull holiday duty than their counterparts in manufacturing firms (25 percent) and non-manufacturing companies (29 percent).

Holiday shifts were considerably more common a decade ago. Almost half of employers surveyed in 2002 (47 percent) and 2003 (49 percent) required at least a few employees to work on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, or both.


Holiday gifts and bonuses from employers have settled back around levels observed before recession. Roughly two-fifths of the surveyed employers (42 percent) will distribute gift items or cash bonuses to some or all of the workforce in 2013-14, roughly equivalent to the previous two years (45 percent and 46 percent) and considerably higher than in 2009 (33 percent), which marked an all-time low in the percentage of organizations providing gifts or bonuses to their employees.

Exorbitant gifts from business associates are banned by the vast majority of establishments, as only 18 percent of the organizations reported no formal policy on gifts from clients or colleagues. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) prohibit any and all gifts, while about half permit only items of nominal value (36 percent) or impose a specific limit on the value of gifts from business contacts (13 percent).


While year-end party-giving may not have fully recovered from the Great Recession’s impact, employer-sponsored celebrations remain the rule rather than the exception. Seven out of 10 establishments will sponsor or host holiday festivities, including 51 percent that will hold company-wide events for all or most of the workforce. From 2004 to 2007, about eight out of 10 employers sponsored some form of holiday celebration and roughly two-thirds threw parties for the entire workforce.

Few party-sponsoring companies will ask workers to pick up any of the tab. Among employers sponsoring festivities for the entire workforce, nearly nine in 10 (89 percent) will cover the entire cost of those celebrations. More than three-fifths of the company-wide parties (63 percent) will be held away from the work site, while about half (52 percent) will occur outside regular work hours. Alcohol will be served at 59 percent of the big bashes, usually with safeguards against excessive consumption.


Charitable activities remain a holiday tradition at a majority of organizations, although those endeavors may be waning just a bit. About three in five surveyed employers (57 percent) plan to sponsor charitable or community activities around the year’s end. From 2001 to 2005, about seven out of 10 responding organizations reported participation in charitable activities around the holidays.

Toy drives and food collections again top the list of employer-sponsored charitable activities. Roughly four in 10 surveyed establishments (38 percent) will sponsor toy collections for underprivileged children and more than a third (34 percent) plan to collect and deliver food to the needy. Clothing drives have been slated by 17 percent of all employers, while about the same proportion (18 percent) will make direct monetary donations. Thirteen percent will sponsor or sanction money collections at the work site.

Multiple programs, drives and outings have been slated by most charity-sponsoring organizations. Among employers with charitable endeavors planned for the 2013-14 holiday season, nearly four-fifths (79 percent) have more than one effort on their agendas.