Disparate World Holidays Keep Payroll Professionals Busy



The year-end holidays mean merriment for many people but for global payroll professionals, keeping track of the season’s paid days off across multiple countries and jurisdictions may be difficult.

Though many countries throughout the world designate Christmas on Dec. 25 and New Year’s Day on Jan. 1 as paid holidays, there are many countries that offer different or additional days off as holidays during the year-end season.

Many countries select days near or next to the holidays, such as Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and Epiphany as either a bank, government, regional, partial or special holiday though not a fully paid day off. In the Philippines, for example, Christmas Eve on Dec. 24 usually is a special nonworking day, meaning that it is not a paid holiday but if employees work that day they are entitled to 30 percent extra pay for the time worked. The day after Christmas, known as Boxing Day in Canada and throughout the Commonwealth, is only a statutory holiday in the Canadian province of Ontario despite federal offices being closed.

When a holiday falls on a weekend, such as this holiday season, with Christmas and New Year’s Day both on Sundays, countries such as Australia and those in the U.K. designate the closest or subsequent workday to be a paid holiday. On the other hand, some countries do not legislate changes to holidays and employees lose the paid holiday.

Global payroll professionals also should be aware of countries that observe Christmas on different days. Countries with Eastern Orthodox or Coptic populations, such as Armenia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Poland and Russia, generally celebrate Christmas about Jan. 7. Russia has gone as far as to mark Jan. 1 to Jan. 8 as Christmas and New Year's holidays. Armenia does the same, but also includes Dec. 31.

A further wrinkle occurs when lunar-based holidays occur on or near holidays based on the Gregorian calendar. The Muslim holiday known as the Prophet’s Birthday, for example, is designated as a paid holiday in the Middle East and North Africa that occurred in 2015 about Dec. 23 and Dec. 25 and Jan. 3 and 4. Luckily for payroll professionals, the Prophet’s Birthday does not occur on any major holidays in 2016, as it is designated to occur Dec. 11 or Dec. 12.

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