Long Thanksgiving Weekend Remains a U.S Tradition, Bloomberg BNA Survey Finds

More Than a Third of Employers Will Require Holiday Work

Arlington, Va. (November 2, 2012) - The four-day Thanksgiving weekend remains a November tradition among most U.S. employers, although more than a third of surveyed establishments will require at least a few employees to report to work on the holiday, according to the latest Bloomberg BNA surveyof year-end holiday practices. Nearly three out of four responding employers (73 percent) have scheduled both Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 22) and the following Friday (Nov. 23) as paid days off for all or most of the workforce this year, virtually unchanged from 2011 (72 percent) and 2010 (74 percent). Throughout the Bloomberg BNA survey's history, the two-day Thanksgiving holiday has proven mostly impervious to economic conditions.

While nearly all employers (99 percent) have scheduled a paid day off for Thanksgiving Day, some workers will have to forego or postpone holiday dinners with family and friends. This year, 36 percent of establishments will require at least some of their employees to work on the national holiday, a moderate increase in reported work requirements from the previous three years. Still, Thanksgiving work shifts were more common a decade or longer ago; nearly half of employers surveyed in 2002 required some employees to work on Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving gifts from employers have waned somewhat since the mid-2000s, but a small circle of employers-manufacturers, especially-seem to be holding fast to their November traditions. About one in 10 surveyed organizations will send workers home with a token of their appreciation in late November, in line with survey findings over the past half-decade but reflecting a modest decline from the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Manufacturers remain most generous with paid time off at Thanksgiving.  More than nine out of 10 manufacturing companies (93 percent) have scheduled paid days off for both Thursday, Nov. 22 and Friday, Nov. 23 in 2012. A four-day weekend is on tap at about seven in 10 surveyed nonmanufacturing companies (69 percent) and roughly two-thirds of nonbusiness establishments (65 percent), including health care facilities and government agencies.

Workers in small companies stand a much better chance of a long Thanksgiving weekend than their colleagues in larger organizations. Two paid days off for Thanksgiving have been scheduled by more than four out of five firms with fewer than 1,000 employees (81 percent); workers at less than three-fifths of larger organizations (56 percent) will be so fortunate.

Virtually all employers have declared a paid day off for Thanksgiving, but more than a third will require staff to report to work on Nov. 22. Thirty-six percent of responding employers will impose holiday shifts on at least some of their workers, somewhat higher than in 2011 (29 percent), 2010 (29 percent), and 2009 (28 percent, an all-time low). Despite the apparent increase, Thanksgiving shifts remain less common than they were a decade ago. In 2002, almost half of all responding employers (47 percent) had employees on the job for Thanksgiving, and reports of Thanksgiving work shifts consistently ran above 40 percent of firms from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s.

Skeleton crews and partial operations appear to be the prevailing practice among employers that will not shut down completely on Nov. 22. Five percent of responding employers will have production staff on hand for Thanksgiving, and 9 percent will require some professional staff to be on site. In contrast, 16 percent reported that security or public safety employees must work on the holiday, 15 percent have scheduled Thanksgiving shifts for service or maintenance employees, and 13 percent will require technicians to work on Nov. 22.

Employees who toil on Thanksgiving Day will be rewarded for their sacrifices, as most workers who must miss or postpone their Thanksgiving dinners can expect something extra in their paychecks. Only 9 percent of firms imposing Thanksgiving shifts this year will pay workers only straight time for working on the holiday, with no extra pay or compensatory time off. Conversely, well over half of the establishments expecting holiday work will provide overtime pay, including 22 percent that will pay double-time to workers who pull Thanksgiving shifts.

Thanksgiving gifts remain the exception-and somewhat less prevalent than they were a decade ago-but a small minority of employers are holding onto that November tradition.  Eleven percent of the surveyed employers plan to bestow a Thanksgiving gift on their workers, as the proportion has been essentially unmoved since 2005 (11 or 12 percent in each year since). Thanksgiving gifts peaked in 2004 (23 percent of firms) and typically ran at 15 percent or more in the decade before.

Manufacturers' largess extends to Thanksgiving gifts. Nearly a quarter of surveyed manufacturing companies (24 percent) will reward workers with a Thanksgiving gift this year, compared with less than one-tenth of nonmanufacturing enterprises (9 percent) and just 6 percent of responding nonbusiness employers.

The Survey Sample: Of the 628 employers represented by responding human resource and employee relations executives, 21 percent are manufacturing companies, 48 percent are nonmanufacturing companies, and 29 percent are nonbusiness organizations, such as government employers, hospitals, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations. (Two percent did not indicate an industry classification.) Sixty-five percent of the participating organizations employ fewer than 1,000 workers, while 35 percent have workforces of 1,000 or more employees. Nonunion establishments make up 78 percent of the survey sample, while 21 percent employ at least some union-represented workers. (One percent did not indicate union status.) The Holiday Practices Survey was conducted from September 10 to September 23, 2012 using a self-administered web-based survey. Bloomberg BNA's survey of the year-end holiday practices has been conducted since 1980.

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