The Complete List of 2021 Federal Holidays for Businesses

Every year, employers will make decisions about which days to grant employees time off. A great starting point is to understand the federal holiday schedule. Federal holidays are days where government offices and banks are closed. Employers will often grant these days off to employees.
The Complete List of 2021 Federal Holidays for Businesses
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As we turn the corner and move into 2021 (thank goodness 2020 is finally over), you’ll want to plan out your employment schedule for the new year. For many businesses, this includes designating holidays that employees don’t have to work. To help you make this decision, we’ve compiled a complete list of the federal 2021 holidays (as well as some others).

What’s a federal holiday?

A federal holiday is designated by the federal government in accordance with federal law 5 U.S.C 6103. On federal holidays, government offices and banks are closed in observance of the holiday. Because these institutions close, this can affect certain businesses.

What’s an example of a federal holiday?

An example of a federal holiday is Memorial Day. Every year, on the last Monday of the month of May, banks and government offices close to celebrate, commemorate, and observe Memorial Day.

Many businesses will often close their offices or give employees the day off to celebrate a federal holiday.

What’s an example of a non-federal holiday?

There are plenty of examples of holidays that are not considered “federal.” Many states observe their own state holidays (like Pioneer Day in Utah, Nevada Day in Nevada, or Casimir Pulaski Day in Wisconsin). Many religions celebrate on their own special days (such as Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, Yom Kippur, and Eid Al-Fitr). There are also fun days like National Hot Dog Day, National Pie Day, and April Fool’s Day.

These holidays are not observed by the federal government, and businesses typically do shut down because of them.

List of Federal Holidays in 2021

New Year's DayFriday, January 1
Martin Luther King Jr. DayMonday, January 18
Washington's Birthday / President's DayMonday, February 15
Memorial DayMonday, May 31
Independence DaySunday, July 4 (Monday, July 5*)
Labor DayMonday, September 6
Columbus Day / Indigenous People's DayMonday, October 11
Veteran's DayThursday, November 11
Thanksgiving DayThursday, November 25
Christmas DaySaturday, December 25 (Friday, December 24*)
New Year's Day(Friday, December 31*)

* The observed date. If a holiday falls on a Saturday, the Friday before is a holiday. If a holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday is a holiday. 

Am I required to give employee’s time off for a federal holiday?

No. There is no law that requires an employer to give an employee time off to celebrate a federal holiday (unless you are a financial institution or government entity). Time off is often given for federal holidays, but there is no requirement to do so.

Additionally, if you choose to give employees time off for a federal holiday, you are not required by law to pay those employees for the time off.

However, even though there is no requirement to grant time off for these holidays or pay employees during their time off, we recommend doing so. Paid time off is a wonderful employee benefit and can be used as a way to keep employees happy, motivated, and engaged. Paid time off is also a way for employees to maintain good mental and physical health.

Paid time off also contributes to your ability to recruit and retain great people. Talented employees have options, and if you do not offer the time off they expect, they may look for a different employer. By offering generous PTO (including on federal holidays) you’ll reduce employee turnover and be more competitive when hiring top talent.

Am I required to give employees time off to celebrate religious holidays?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee on the basis of religion. Therefore, if an employee makes a request to take time off to reserve a religious holiday, and the employer can reasonably accommodate that request, then the employee must be allowed to take the time off. This applies to any employer who has 15 or more employees.

To deal with this, many companies institute a “floating holiday.” A floating holiday can be taken at an employee’s discretion and can be used to observe an important religious day.

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Conclusion

Federal holidays are a great opportunity for employers to give employees time off work. While not a requirement, the benefit of paid time off is extremely valuable, and it’s something that employees cherish. As you plan for 2021, take a moment to consider what holidays you can celebrate with your employees by allowing them to take some time away from work.

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