Less Than 2 in 5 U.S. Workers Receive Paid Day Off For Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal Holiday

Holiday Remains Far Behind Many Other Federal Holidays as a Respite from Work, According to Bloomberg BNA Annual Nationwide Survey

Arlington, Va. (January 11, 2016) — Thirty-seven percent of American employers will provide a paid day off for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, according to Bloomberg BNA’s Holiday Practices Survey of over 350 human resource professionals.  The figure ties last year’s high-water mark for the survey, first conducted in 1986, and marks a very slight uptick from 2014 (35 percent).    

“After three decades as a federal holiday, getting Dr. King’s birthday as a paid day off seems to be plateauing as those U.S. workers getting the day off with pay has hovered between 30 and 37 percent the past five years,” said Molly Huie, Bloomberg BNA’s Manager of Survey and Research Reports.  “In fact, while not a federal holiday, the Friday after Thanksgiving was given as a paid day off in 2015 by nearly twice as many employers (71 percent) as Dr. King’s birthday and 46 percent of employers provided a paid day off for Christmas Eve.”  

Dr. King’s birthday remains on par with Presidents’ Day (35 percent) as a paid holiday for workers and is more likely to be declared a paid day off than Veterans’ Day (22 percent) and Columbus Day (16 percent).  Federal holidays that are designated as a paid day off by U.S. employers with greater frequency than Martin Luther King, Jr. Day include Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day (both at 98 percent), Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day (all at 97 percent) and New Year’s Day (94 percent).   

Only One in Ten Manufacturers to Provide a Paid Day Off

As with previous years’ surveys, employees in non-business organizations such as healthcare organizations, government and educational institutions are far more likely to be given Dr. King’s birthday off with pay than those working in manufacturing and non-manufacturing enterprises.  Over six in ten non-business establishments (63 percent) are planning to give the day off with pay.  By comparison, 34 percent of non-manufacturing businesses, such as retailers and transportation and insurance providers will give workers a paid day off, and a mere 10 percent of manufacturing establishments will follow suit.

Workers in Unionized Organizations Most Likely to Get a Paid Holiday

Large companies are somewhat more inclined to give workers the day off than smaller ones.  Thirty-nine percent of large companies (1,000 or more employees) will grant a paid holiday to workers, and 35 percent of smaller organizations will do likewise.  Fifty-one percent of organizations with unions will receive a paid day off for the King holiday, compared with 33 percent of non-unionized establishments. 

Organizations that Grant a Paid Day off More Likely to Host Commemorative Events  

Eleven percent of responding organizations will offer programs or events designed to commemorate Dr. King’s achievements, virtually unchanged from the past three years (9 percent in 2015, 10 percent in 2014 and 11 percent in 2013).  Nineteen percent of employers who will grant a paid holiday in 2015 will also hold programs or events to recognize Dr. King’s achievements.  By comparison, only 6 percent of companies that opt not to make January 19 a paid holiday will provide opportunities for employees to commemorate Dr. King in some organized fashion.

Bloomberg BNA conducts multiple surveys throughout the year to provide human resources professionals with an understanding of current industry practices.  These are all available through the HR Decision Support Network or can be purchased individually here.


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