Despite Some Gains Since 1986, Paid MLK Day Holiday Still the Exception Among U.S. Employers, Bloomberg BNA Survey Finds

Arlington, Va. (January 16, 2014)— Observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a paid day off will edge just above one-third of U.S. employers this year, according to a survey of 621 human resource professionals conducted by Bloomberg BNA. Although the prevalence of a paid King Day holiday has crept slowly upward since the federal holiday was established in 1986 — eclipsing Veteran’s Day and Columbus Day along the way — workers remain more likely to receive paid time off for Christmas Eve and the Friday after Thanksgiving.

For 2014, 35 percent of all responding employers have scheduled a full paid day off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Monday, January 20), up just slightly from a year earlier (32 percent) and, by a small margin, the largest percentage reporting a paid King Day holiday since the survey was first conducted in 1986. The paid holiday’s prevalence hovered around 30 percent for most of the past decade, reflecting very modest gains from the 1990s (e.g., 22 percent in 1995) and roughly twice the proportion of employers that provided a paid day off in 1986 (14 percent).

Provision of a paid King Day holiday still trails far behind six federal holidays (New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas) that employers almost universally designate as paid days off, and also falls well short of the Friday after Thanksgiving (73 percent) and Christmas Eve (42 percent reported a full day off with pay, 12 percent said they offer a half-day). (Statistics for other holidays are drawn from a separate Bloomberg BNA survey of holiday practices conducted in 2013.)

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is roughly on par with Presidents’ Day (35 percent) and more likely to be declared a paid day off than Veteran’s Day (22 percent) and Columbus Day (16 percent).

Manufacturers, Other Businesses Lag in Provision of Paid King Day Holiday

Workers in the business sectors — manufacturing, especially — stand a much slimmer chance of receiving a paid King Day holiday than their counterparts in education, government and other nonbusiness organizations. Nearly six in 10 responding nonbusiness establishments (57 percent) have scheduled a paid day off for the third Monday in January this year, compared with 33 percent of nonmanufacturing businesses and just 11 percent of surveyed manufacturing companies.

The survey revealed little or no variation in the prevalence of a paid King Day holiday by workforce size (35 percent of those with fewer than 1,000 employees; 37 percent of larger organizations) or union status (35 percent of both non-union establishments and those with union-represented workers).

One in 10 Organizations Are Sponsoring Commemorations, Events  

Programs and events honoring Dr. King are on the mid-January agenda at 10 percent of the surveyed establishments, virtually unchanged from a year ago (11 percent), when the survey first inquired about employer-sponsored commemorations.

Celebrations and memorials will be substantially more common in companies that have scheduled a paid King Day holiday than in organizations that have not. Of the surveyed establishments with a paid day off scheduled for January 20, nearly one in five (19 percent) will sponsor events to recognize Dr. King’s life and accomplishments. Among those without a paid King Day holiday in 2014, only 6 percent have any commemorations planned.

Respondents reported luncheons, breakfasts, conferences, parades and marches to be held on or around January 20. Several noted community outreach and education programs centered on Dr. King’s life and achievements. One educational institution holds a “candlelight march” coupled with “readings from King’s works at various places on campus.”

About the Survey
Bloomberg BNA's Year-End Holiday Practices survey for 2013-14 was conducted from Sep. 9 to Oct. 4, 2013 through a self-administered web-based questionnaire, which survey participants accessed through a secure website. Of the 621 human resource and employee relations executives responding to the survey, 22 percent represented manufacturing companies, 49 percent responded for nonmanufacturing companies and 28 percent represented nonbusiness organizations, such as government agencies, health care facilities, educational institutions and membership associations. (One percent did not provide an industry classification.) Sixty-six percent of the participating organizations employed fewer than 1,000 workers at the time of the survey, while 33 percent reported workforces of 1,000 or more employees. (One percent did not indicate workforce size.) Nonunion establishments make up 77 percent of the survey sample; 23 percent reported union-represented workers.