Will Federal Employees Receive an Extra Day Off at Christmas?

Will federal employees be given an extra day off around Christmas in 2016? Here is our best guess about why that is unlikely.

It is now cold in many parts of our country. Those in colder climates are seeing snow. It is December. Christmas is rapidly approaching.

These events usually add up to an important question posed by some of our readers: “Will the president issue an executive order giving us an extra day off for Christmas this year?”

The answer is often “yes.” There are a number of years federal employees received an extra day off for Christmas. But, for Christmas in 2016, plan on using annual leave if you need or want an extra day off from work.

Christmas falls on Sunday, December 25, 2016. Monday, December 26 is a federal holiday for most Federal employees. Why is Monday a holiday for federal employees? You can thank President Richard Nixon. He issued Executive Order 11582 in 1971. A section of this Order reads:

Any employee whose basic workweek does not include Sunday and who would ordinarily be excused from work on a holiday falling within his basic workweek shall be excused from work on the next workday of his basic workweek whenever a holiday falls on Sunday.

This means it is likely decision-makers will conclude federal employees are already getting an extra holiday on Monday, December 26th.

Previous Executive Orders on Extra Christmas Holiday from President Obama

What has Barack Obama done during his time in office regarding the granting of an extra day off at Christmas? Here are the executive orders President Obama has issued on this topic.

  • Executive Order 15323 – 12/11/2009 4 hours on 12/24/2009 (Thursday)
  • Executive Order 13633 – 12/21/2012 8 hours on 12/24/2012 (Monday)
  • Barack Obama Executive Order 13682 – 12/05/2014 8 hours on 12/26/2014 (Friday)
  • Executive Order…-12/11/2015 4 hours on 12/24/2015 (Thursday)

What Happened in 2010, 2011 and 2013?

Some readers will ask, “What happened in 2013?” Christmas was on a Wednesday. No extra time off was given to the federal workforce. Based on past precedent going back a few decades, it is much more likely a president will give employees an extra day off when it results in a four day weekend.

Astute readers will notice there was also no executive order issued providing an additional day off at Christmas in 2010 or 2011. In 2010, Christmas was on a Saturday. As a result, there was a federal holiday on Friday, December 24th. In 2011, Christmas fell on a Sunday. There was a federal holiday on Monday, December 26. No extra days off were given in either of these years.

Times are Changing

Federal employees have received an extra day off more frequently in recent years than in earlier decades.

While federal employees 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.

More recently, President Bush gave the federal workforce a half day off on Christmas Eve in 2002, which was 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 suddenly announced an extra federal holiday (a Monday) for the federal workforce on December 21st. In 2012, Christmas was on a Tuesday. Perhaps it was a coincidence. The extra holiday was announced after a petition on the White House website asked the president for an extra day of vacation exceeded the minimum number of signatures requiring a response.

Chances of a Surprise Executive Order?

President Obama surprised many people when announcing a higher pay raise than he had previously recommended. See President Issues 2.1% Pay Raise Plan for Federal Employees if you missed the news.

Since he decided to recommend a higher pay raise, what are the chances of him federal employees an extra day off at Christmas, perhaps on Friday, December 23rd?

He could, of course, decide to provide an extra Christmas gift to the federal workforce. It has never been done by a president before. On the other hand, Barack Obama is not running for office again, at least not right away. The administration likes to cite instances of the president making history. Perhaps he will decide to do so by declaring an additional day off for the federal workforce.

Our advice: Schedule annual leave for a day around Christmas that you want to be free from work to engage in other activities. It is unlikely there will be an additional holiday announced.

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