When Christmas is On Wednesday: Historical Data Not Promising for Feds Getting Extra Holiday

Will federal employees get an extra day off on Christmas Eve this year?

This year, Christmas falls on a Wednesday and Christmas Eve is on a Tuesday. Will federal employees get an extra holiday on Christmas Eve?

We don’t know, of course, but the precedent has not been good for federal workers who would like the extra day off without having to dip into their leave account to enjoy the day at the Mall, cooking Christmas dinner a day early, or sitting around enjoying their egg nog. Wednesday is the worst day for Christmas to occur in order for federal employees who may be hoping for an extra day off from work.

President Obama provided a half-day off on Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24, 2009. President George W. Bush provided a half-day holiday on Tuesday, December 24, 2002, as well as several full days off the day before or after Christmas—Monday, December 24, 2001, Friday, December 26, 2003, Monday, December 24, 2007, and Friday, December 26, 2008.

But, for whatever reason, there seems to be more leeway to giving federal employees an extra day off now than was the case in previous decades.

While feds got half days off on December 24 in 1946 and 1957, they were forced to work their regular schedules — both on December 24 and December 26 — when Christmas fell on a Wednesday in 1963, 1968, 1974, 1985, 1991 and 1996. Most recently, however, President Bush gave the federal workforce a half day off on Christmas Eve in 2002, also a Tuesday. Prior to President Bush’s action, 1957 was the last year in which workers got extra time off when Christmas fell on a Wednesday.

In 2012, the president announced the extra time off on December 21st. Perhaps it was a coincidence but that happened after a petition on the White House website  asked the president for an extra day of vacation exceeded the minimum signature threshold to require a response from the administration.

In addition to 2012, President Obama gave federal employees a half day off in 2009, when Christmas fell on a Friday, but did not give any time off in 2010 or 2011.

Cost of an Extra Holiday

While many readers would like to have the day off, the cost to the government is not inexpensive. The Los Angeles Times reports that the estimated that the cost for shutting down the government in 2012 for a day is $100 million. And, in making the decision last minute, the president inconvenienced many Americans that expected federal services Monday–like international travelers needing the passport agency in order to see family for the holidays.

So, while a decision on whether to grant an extra day off for Christmas is not one of the toughest that has to be made by a president, there are political ramifications to consider. And, with the president’s popularity falling, the cost to the government could play a role in his decision.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47