Paid MLK Day Gains Traction But Lags Behind Other Holidays


A record share of employers will enable workers to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid day off on Jan. 19, an annual survey by Bloomberg BNA reveals.

This year's figure (37 percent) exceeds the previous record high of 35 percent and marks the fifth straight year of growth in the percentage of organizations granting paid leave for Dr. King's day of remembrance. 

Still, the recognition of MLK Day as a paid holiday pales in comparison with other federal holidays, such as Christmas, New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, Independence Day, Labor Day and Memorial Day, all of which are designated as paid days off by the vast majority of employers.

Indeed, an earlier Bloomberg BNA report, Holiday Leave Practices 2013, showed that Martin Luther King Jr. Day fell more in line with such holidays as President’s Day (granted as a paid holiday by 35 percent of employers), Veteran’s Day (22 percent) and Columbus Day (16 percent).

As it turns out, employers are much more likely to treat the Friday after Thanksgiving as a paid day off (73 percent), even though it’s not a federally sanctioned holiday, according to the 2013 survey on holiday leave practices. 

Commemorative Events

Not surprisingly, employers that treat MLK Day as a paid holiday are also more inclined than other organizations to have programs or events that commemorate Dr. King’s achievements, though the figures are fairly small for both groups.

Among employers granting a paid holiday on Jan. 19, about one in six (17 percent) said they would hold programs or events to recognize Dr. King’s achievements. This compares with one in 20 (5 percent) employers in the group that won’t be treating MLK Day as a paid holiday. 

Among all responding employers, an overall 9 percent reported that they would be sponsoring organized activities in memory of the civil rights leader. Employer-sponsored events include such things as educational programs, breakfasts or luncheons. In addition, some employers encourage participation in community events, such as parades, concerts and volunteer activities.

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