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Four-Day Thanksgiving Holiday Is Workplace Tradition, Survey Finds

Tuesday November 20th 2018

Thanksgiving Day, the fourth Thursday in November, has been an American tradition since before the nation was founded. The first settlers feasted on various dates in the fall to celebrate the harvest before buckling down for the hard winters. George Washington proclaimed there should be a National Thanksgiving in 1789, but for decades the day jumped all over the map and was observed only in New England. Abraham Lincoln endorsed the holiday in 1863, but the day became an official national holiday only after it was proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 and approved by Congress in 1941.

The four-day Thanksgiving holiday has slowly become a welcome norm in the American workplace, gaining in popularity with employers—and their employees of course–since the 1980s. Because other holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, move around on the calendar, extending the secular Thanksgiving holiday, which always falls on Thursday, has gained traction. Now, more than three-quarters of companies provide the extra day off, according to Bloomberg Law’s annual survey on Thanksgiving holiday practices.

This survey finds that nearly all employers (97 percent) will provide paid time off on Thanksgiving Day. And 78 percent of employers also add Black Friday as a paid day off as well. The Friday paid holiday is most popular with manufacturers (91 percent) and small businesses (82 percent).

However, not all offices and factories will be silent and still over this Thanksgiving holiday. A third of employers will require at least some employees to work on Thursday, but 85 percent of those will make the holiday hours worth missing the pumpkin pie. About one-quarter of employees will pocket either double time or time and a half for working on Thanksgiving. Twelve percent of companies will let employees take comp time for working the holiday, and 11 percent will add comp time to the extra pay. Only 10 percent will ask employees to work on turkey day without any kind of perks.

As the Black Friday tradition of a stampede of shoppers waiting before dawn to start their holiday shopping has taken a firm hold, retailers naturally have to call all hands on deck for the rest of the four-day holiday. Those most likely to require some employees to work the holiday itself are retailers and public health and safety employers like hospitals and police and fire departments. Other large employers (15 percent) are likely to have security and maintenance employees at least on call over the long holiday.

Since the holiday is mainly devoted to eating and drinking, about 15 percent of employers plan to host holiday lunches or evening parties for their entire staff around Thanksgiving. A quarter of manufacturers and small shops will hand out gifts or throw parties for their staff at Thanksgiving.

The tradition of handing out turkeys to staff has tapered off to just 2 percent of employers, mostly large manufacturers. That rate has gone virtually unchanged for more than a decade.

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