Requesting alternative holidays

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Q:  Many Americans celebrate about 10 to 12 well-known holidays per year.  There are holidays, which are more important to me, that I would like to celebrate in lieu of the common US holidays.  What are my options?  How do most employers manage this?  I am fine working on Memorial Day, Independence Day or Labor Day.  There are religious holidays in the fall, which are more important to me.  Can I work on these days, and then take my holidays off in the fall?

A: You raise several excellent points.  In the US, there is a fairly standard holiday schedule for most businesses.  You may not celebrate the holidays you listed, but your employer may not be open for business.  If your employer is open on these holidays, there may be an opportunity for you to work on these holidays.  Some retailers, health care organizations or hospitality employers may appreciate your willingness to work on these holidays.  However, there may be other industries which are not interested in asking you to work.  These other industries may be tech, government or financial services.  The decision may largely rest on the industry you work in.

Some employers offer floating holidays.  The intent of floating holidays is to offer days, so that an employee can observe holidays, which may not be a celebrated holiday on the calendar of the organization.  As an example, the Jewish faith has several important holidays in the fall.  These holidays include Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  If an employer does not observe these holidays, an employee can still use one of their floating holidays to take the day off, while still receiving pay for the day.  Floating holidays could also be used for other celebrations, if an employee chooses to use them for another day.  Many employees offer two floating holidays during the calendar year.  An employee may also allow an employee to use a vacation or PTO (paid time off) day to celebrate a holiday.
You should discuss these options with your manager.  Your manager may have some other options as well.  Your manager may permit you to work another day to “substitute” for working on Independence Day. Every company is a bit different. What is important, is that your manager permit you to take a day (or even days) off to celebrate these holidays which may be important to you. Any time off should be pre-approved with a manager, when possible.  Let your manager know now, so they can consider different options. If discussed in advance, this helps a manager plan, and then hopefully continue business operations with minimal interruptions.
Good job of inquiring about it now!

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Boston.com Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.

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