should parents get time off preference for holidays?

Suzanne Lucas of Evil HR Lady has a great post up at CBS News about the issue of parents being given scheduling priority in workplaces that are open on Christmas Day.

She has a ton of good suggestions of what employers can do instead to be more fair, including making using vacation days on a holiday more expensive (by requiring 2 days worth of PTO, to incentivize people to choose other days), offering extra holiday pay, and increasing commuting and on-call work options. You can read it here.

{ 160 comments… read them below }

  1. Yarn!*

    OOOOOO, this issue has been a thorn in my side for four years now. As the youngest part-timer on a team of five, its been “expected” that I take all the “bad” shifts. I got stuck with working more evenings, more weekends, and filled in holes where the more senior part-timers couldn’t fill. For the most part it didn’t bother me. I saw it as a trade-off for going to school while working that job. Until my boss had my colleagues and I write our schedules one semester. That semester I stated that I would not work more than five weekends (which would have evenly split all weekends instead of me taking 7-8). My coworker, who had kids, told me “[I] need to learn how to sacrifice.” Sacrifice my time because SHE wanted time to spend with her kids. Notice that I didn’t say I wouldn’t work weekends, but I wouldn’t carry the majority anymore. (Oh, and one year she got all Saturdays off because her second job needed her on Saturdays).

    Fast forward a year. Instead of having to take time off during the week to cover our weekend hours, we now get that time paid. Coworker who wanted me to “sacrifice” is now working as many weekends as she can. To the point where I am no longer working the majority of weekends. (Hence less money). The reasoning? She needs the extra money.

    I’m tired of the two-facedness of it all that I turned all that extra time into job searching.

    1. Mike C.*

      I really hate the idea that because parents chose to make that sacrifice of time/money/energy that everyone they know must make a similar choice.

      I didn’t get them pregnant, I didn’t carry that child, they aren’t my kids and I shouldn’t have to directly alter my life because someone else made the choice to alter theirs. You want me to pay school levies and park taxes? Sign me up. I understand my responsibility to society as a whole, and I understand that I benefited from such things and it’s only fair to pass it on.

      But for someone to say, “you get the back schedules because you don’t have kids” – which is to say, “your family isn’t as important or real as mine is” is asinine.

      1. Jamie*

        I’ll just follow Mike around agreeing with him, today.

        Yes, as a parent I like to spend the holidays with my kids. No, I do not feel my employer should take that into consideration one iota when deciding who gets time off.

        My time with my kids isn’t more important to me than anyone else’s time with their family, or time they want to spend napping, snowboarding, or searching eBay for old Colorforms.

        It is a dangerous game for an employer to think they can put different values on the free time for individual employees.

        1. Laura L*

          Yes! Someone spending time with their kids isn’t more important than me spending time with my parents and friends that I rarely see because I live 1000 miles away from them.

      2. BW*

        Exactly, just because someone doesn’t have young children, doesn’t mean they don’t have family (or friends who sub in as family). When you choose to take a job where working holidays and weekends is part of the deal, it’s really not a huge reach to expect you’ll be working some of those weekends and holidays kids or not.

        My mother worked in a hospital where they alternated holidays. If you worked Thanksgiving one year, you’d have it off the next year and work Christmas instead. You have all year to plan around that kind of thing. Some years we ate Thanksgiving dinner late instead of mid-day. Some years we did Christmas Day at Dad’s house and Christmas Eve or Christmas Day evening with Mom. It really was not that big of a deal. We still stuffed our faces with turkey, lasagna, and pie and Santa didn’t skip our house because Mom had to work.

        Everyone deserves a fair shot at having holidays off.

        1. Jamie*

          Yep. My husband is a cop and they put in for vacation a year in advance. He never puts in for the holidays because it’s just us, we don’t travel, and he’d rather work and get the holiday pay and let the people for whom it would mean a lot more fight it out for the days off.

          So if the holiday falls on a weekend we get him for the day. If not, we eat a little later. For us no big deal.

          My mom was a nurse too, and they did holiday rotation to keep things fair. There are definitely systems that may not make everyone happy 100% of the time, but that are fair and keep any subset of employees from being screwed.

          (Actually, I think he secretly likes working the holidays because traffic is lighter and it’s an excuse to miss midnight mass. I’m on to him!)

          1. BW*

            Lighter traffic is hugely up there as one of the reasons I like working certain holidays or the days around certain holidays since my office isn’t open for the major ones. Light traffic and a quiet office – the best days to work!

            1. Sara*

              Also, dont’ people who work on holidays get paid time and a half? or is that only for those who are paid hourly (forgive me I’m still a little confused about the exempt vs non-exempt issue)

              1. Jamie*

                I’m exempt and like most of my kind – no OT.

                Every company handles comp time (if they do it) differently, it seems. Upthread Mike C posted about how his company does it, which is a great system IMO. But I’ve only been comped hour for hour – I’ve never gotten additional comp time for working a holiday – at any company.

                FWIW I work every New Years Eve/Day and every July 4th and haven’t really thought about it since I wouldn’t do anything special on those days anyway and I like being able to bank the time to use them when I want to.

                But I really do like Mike C’s system. Maybe I’ll buy HR lunch and have a little chat…:)

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Sara, it’s up to the individual company. If you’re non-exempt, working a holiday wouldn’t automatically get you overtime, as far as the law goes … but if working the holiday put you over 40 hours in that week, then you would. In other words, the law treats it just like any other day.

                If you’re exempt, then’s it’s up to your employer.

      3. Tina*

        I agree with Mike. I can appreciate that parents have certain obligations on time and commitment that I don’t, but I also have commitments to people and events in my life that they don’t. It works both ways.

        I realize that marital status and having children or not isn’t a legally protected status when it comes to employment, but isn’t the principle the same – treating some one differently because they’re part of a particular group? Making decisions based on assumptions or stereotypes?

        I’m happy to chip in time and help when I can, because colleagues help me in different ways. But I wouldn’t be ok with being told that, unilaterally, parents will get priority or preference for something.

  2. Mike C.*

    My employer does this for holidays and weekends:

    OT over 8 hours: 1.5 time.
    All day Saturday: 1.5 time.
    All day Sunday: 2.0 time.
    Holidays: 3.0 time (1.0 for the paid vacation, 2.0 for the fact it’s a holiday).

    Plans like this go a long way to making undesirable shifts and schedules a bit easier to swallow. And rather than making vacation time “more expensive” (good luck calculating the value of unpaid overtime when it’s value changes like that), you’re rewarding the folks who step up, not punishing others who are simply doing what comes naturally.

    The last thing you want to do is favor one employee over another simply because one has kids and the others don’t.

    One other thought: does your business really need to be open during common holidays? For some there is a great reason and I get that, but for a lot of businesses, there are so many people gone the Friday after Thanksgiving or the days between Xmas and New Years that maybe the productivity hit isn’t really worth staying open.

    1. KayDay*

      Agreed. with all of this. My current office closes between Xmas and New Years, because there really isn’t anything to do during that time. When I worked at a drug store (a long time ago), they offered double time for major holidays and there were usually (always?) enough volunteers so that no one was forced to work.

      1. snuck*

        I worked for a very large telco in Australia in the engineering section and basically we had embargos in place for any significant work for the two and a half week period before Christmas through New Years.

        Frustrating for some customers, but the reality is that any major work was going to require roadworks, land access, liasing with local shires/councils and so on and all these other groups just don’t operate efficiently at that time of year (let alone handling the issues of delivery of materials never being guaranteed at those times etc). The vast majority of customers affected were people with very large projects that were months in the making and advised well ahead of time. Where possible work was completed before the embargo. It also meant if something went wrong (not uncommon given the complexity of the upgrades and inter-group-liason) that things didn’t affect a larger group of customers. Finally it meant that on those three weeks all relevant technical staff could have a few days vacation (we have major summer school holidays then too) and we could still do the repairs and such from bushfires and storm outages – which would hit heavily then too.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      I remember the days when my office was closed the week after Christmas. It’s absolutely true that not a lot got done that week, especially because many of the clients we work for are closed that week.

      That got taken away a couple of years ago. I suspect it’s not that the company makes extra money hand over fist that particular week, but rather that forcing people who really want that week to take vacation days means that they have to give up another vacation they wanted to take that year, thus racking up more billable hours at a busier time of year.

      Man, do I miss those days, but I have a feeling they’re never coming back.

      1. Jamie*

        This still exists in some sectors. It’s not universal but common in my industry to have shut downs over the holidays and week of July 4th. The majority are off – it’s slow times for customers and time for inventory, maintenance, etc.

        Those of who have to work, by the nature of our jobs, get the comp time to use at another point in the year. Just last week I used a couple of the days I accrued last December. And someone who barely works with me got pissy about it because I was taking “so much time off.” Yeah, where is she when I’m haunting this place alone like a ghost every shutdown?

        Anyway, I have a team of people that come in to help with inventory reconciliation and some people really like having the option to be able to use the comp time when they like during the year as opposed to having to take the time off over shut down.

        Those are my two favorite times of the year. I work in flannel pants and a pony tail and get more done in 80 hours than I do in an entire month when the office is populated.

        Actually, every year I’m a little disheartened that more people aren’t into it. They do a great job and don’t complain, so I have nothing to whine about – but for them it’s just something to get over with where as I’m more of the mindset that we have to get this done, might as well appreciate the novelty of being able to work uninterrupted – and in flannel. Or sweats – as long as you’re wearing pants that’s the only rule :).

        It really is my favorite work related time of year – I wish there were just one other person here who felt that way, too.

  3. Victoria*

    Obviously parents shouldn’t get preference. As a commenter on Suzanne’s blog said: “You can’t compare people and life situations. I’ve got two employees with young kids, one with a new grandbaby and one whose husband works on the other side of the world for 4 months at a time. Who is going to win that competition? No one.”

    No good can come of an employer trying to weigh whose reasons for wanting a day off are more valid. Kids, religion, rare chances to see family from out of town, solo or friends-only traditions, etc. etc. etc.

    So I really appreciate Suzanne’s practical suggestions for how managers can handle this sort of thing.

    1. Anon*

      Hey, that commenter was me! (Giggles like a crazy person)

      I’m not going to play the worthy game with my people. I like them too much. So, yes, I try and pick up as much of the slack around the holidays so they can take as much time as possible. Do I like working the extra hours? No. But my staff give me 110% all the time. It’s the least I can do since we haven’t had raises in 5 years. And we are just now getting our first COLA in 4 years.

      And I’ve got family and obligations too. Just because I don’t have kids (and that’s not for lack of trying) doesn’t mean my plans are less important.

  4. Jamie*

    And rather than making vacation time “more expensive” (good luck calculating the value of unpaid overtime when it’s value changes like that), you’re rewarding the folks who step up, not punishing others who are simply doing what comes naturally.

    This is very fair. I like the way your place does comp time, Mike, as it’s an acknowledgment that there is a a greater sacrifice for one working Sunday or holidays (for example) than just staying a little later during the week…but all hours are acknowledged as being more than straight time.

    If I were in the position to craft these types of policies, this would be a great place to start. Unfortunately, it’s not.

    1. Sasha*

      Yeah, I think making working the overtime and holiday more enticing is the best plan. My husband’s job does this and it works out nicely – and he works with a mostly reasonable crew of people that they bargain the holiday schedules each year, so if we want the time off we can usually get it, but by the same token, he can work it so we can have the double pay.

      1. K*

        It’s kind of like the difference between the airlines choosing someone to randomly bump when a flight is oversubscribed versus offering a free ticket if you voluntarily give up your seat.

      2. Lisa*

        It sounds great unless they have restrictions like you can’t get holiday pay unless you work the day before and the day after the holiday.

        1. Jamie*

          I have worked at several places with this policy – and it’s always seemed fair to me since it doesn’t include vacation or personal days, but only applied to calling in sick.

          So I could take my vacation the week of a holiday and work neither the day before or after, and still get paid. It’s just trying to keep the holiday flu from crippling the productivity from call ins by people without PTO who were trying to stretch the holiday.

          But this comes up enough I’m wondering if there are companies where you don’t get holiday pay even if you’re using accrued and approved time off before or after? Because if so, that completely sucks.

          1. RJ*

            Jamie, we have the same type of policy where I work; you have to work your “scheduled” shifts before and after the holiday, but if you’re scheduled for PTO those days, you’re ok. The only problem I’ve seen with this is when someone was denied their holiday pay because they called out the following day due to bereavement. I don’t know the specifics, and our bereavement policy is very inclusive (cousins, in-laws, etc.), so perhaps there was some sort of a judgment call made, but it still was not an ideal outcome.

            1. BW*

              Ouch. Maybe there was some circumstances where someone thought that was okay to do this to that particular employee, but it really makes me want to puke a little. My mother died the last day of a long holiday weekend, Jan 3 – so right on the tail of double holiday weekends no less. Not paying the holiday because someone called in for bereavement? Really? Did they also kick the guy in the pants for good measure?
              /end rant

  5. ExceptionToTheRule*

    This is my first year coordinating schedules over the holidays and I am fairly fortunate that not many of my people have kids, but they do all have families of some sort and seeing them requires out of town travel for several people, including me.

    I started with “first come, first serve” and by communicating with my people and asking them to tell me what as most important to them, I was able to get everyone 95% of what they wanted.

    It was a lot of work, but I considered it worth it to avoid people being unhappy and disgruntled at this time of year.

    1. byR0n*

      First come first served is not functional when you have employees like my old coworker who puts in for both Thanksgiving and Christmas TWO YEARS IN ADVANCE. And then is given those holidays, every year.

      1. snuck*

        First come, first served is usually open to abuse by those who are nit pickers and early birds.

        I’ve seen it be handled more fairly that everyone put their requests/preferences in by X date and that rostering be done after that. The email that goes about this usually includes the pretty clear caveat that business needs will be met, that preference will be given to people who have not had their preferences met in previous years as a priority, and that once the approvals are done they are final, with swaps allowed by staff IF they are approved by each relevant manager and don’t affect business continuity.

        Another thing to consider is how much leave people actually have – it’s good business sense to actually reduce the amount of annual leave owed to people (not sure how this works in the US, but in corporate Australia it’s usually four weeks a year accrued, and many staff will sit on several months worth at a time which has a financial implication overall for the company who by law has to hold those wages to the side effectively).

        Final thing? It needs to be early enough to allow people time to book reasonable fares for holidays and accommodation, make plans with their families and so on. It’s too late to be talking about it past early November, probably should be finalised by the end of October.

  6. fposte*

    I think there’s a big difference between accommodating a parent who has a short-notice crisis, like a sick child, and giving overall preference for any particular date to them.

    (The original suggester has now completely gone off the rails by suggesting that people who want the day off to attend Christmas mass aren’t showing true Christian spirit, which would better be served by…well, apparently by making her life more convenient.)

    1. Jamie*

      Original suggester? I’m missing something, I didn’t see anything about this in these comments or on the original article comments?

      1. Victoria*

        This is the original post that started this conversation:

        And her second-to-last paragraph is this:

        “This argument struck me more than anything. I respect people who value religion and find comfort in their faith. But at the same time, don’t most churches teach you to be a humanitarian? Maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know. But would you really feel worse about yourself if you had to miss church than if you, say, forced a single mom to have to scramble for childcare for her small children because you were in church? Is a good Christian someone who goes to church on Christmas or helps a parent be with their small children during Christmas?”

        1. BW*

          That argument is so…something starting with an f, where do I even begin.

          I’m a church-goer (I actually sing in the choir and consider holidays my other “work” because I’m there doing a job and proving a service on top of any religious reasons I might want to be there). It’s offensive to me to have someone who doesn’t also participate in my religious whatever tell me what I should be doing on any given religious holiday and what makes a “Good Christian”. Seriously? Get out of my face.

          She’s a doctor with a schedule she knows well in advance, and her employer probably has a policy about scheduling holidays like most employers do, especially in hospitals. She can take the manipulative guilt-trippy crap somewhere else.

          So glad I didn’t read the whole original blog post. I’d probably be foaming at the mouth from entitlement overdose.

          1. Anonymous*

            “It’s offensive to me to have someone who doesn’t also participate in my religious whatever tell me what I should be doing on any given religious holiday and what makes a “Good Christian”. Seriously? Get out of my face. ”

            What about the opposite though? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone of X religion (that I’m not a part of) lecture me about their religion and what I can do to be more like them, and so on. The inverse is just as offensive.

            The poster does have a valid point though. You have to practice what you preach, regardless of whether the person you’re preachign to believes the same things as you do.

            1. Jamie*

              But in this context no one is preaching anything.

              This is about people who have the holiday off and opting to go to church being judged as unchristian and selfish because they didn’t offer to work so a co-worker with kids could be home.

              If there is preaching being done, it’s not by the person who was minding their own business and just going to their church on their day off. It’s the person tossing around the judgment.

              I read some of the comments over there and just…WOW! Seriously, I was getting aggravated and then I remembered we’re not open on Christmas so all of us – the child-free and those of us are always out of money because we chose to procreate will be home to spend the day as we see fit.

              Seriously, I have never heard of that blog before but her comments responding to her commenters? Definitely not someone I would want in charge of my medical care. The logic. It’s missing.

              1. Chinook*

                There is also the irony, either intended or not, that telling a Christian that going to Christmas mass is an unChristian thing to do. Does she feel the same way about Christians insisting on going to Easter Sunday mass instead of working? Does she even realize what the first 6 letters of Christmas and Christian have in common?

                This type of argument is one I realize I will never win. Ranks right up there with the sister-in-law nurse who rescheduled Christmas dinner 2 days later because she was working Christmas day, didn’t bother telling anyone and, as a result, myself and her sister both ended up at her house, without husbands (who were also working Christmas shifts) hearing her complain about how no one was going to give her Christmas Day off.

                1. Laura L*

                  Wait, but if she had to work Christmas why was she at her house when you showed up?

                  Also, how does someone hosting a meal forget to tell their guests they’ve rescheduled?!

                2. Chinook*

                  She got the day off by showing up at work and whining about how she wouldn’t get next Christmas off because she was on mat. Leave so, according to her interpretation of union rules, she should get this one off. They were going to let someone off Anyway if everyone showed up, so they gave it to her (probably because it would have been a miserable shift with her).

                  As for forgetting, she blamed it on pregnancy brain and, really, what was the big deal because her family was all there for the week anyway. My family, on the other hand, was staying at my sister’s and they could just come on Boxing Day anyway. And, since my brother was doing all the cooking, it didn’t affect her at all.

                  Meanwhile, her sister and I were thinking we could have woken up with our working spouses Christmas morning and then driven in. But, since this was not SIL’s reality, she didn’t think about that.

                3. Chinook*

                  The reason this was a big deal was that this was the first time in 7 years I lived in the same time zone as my family and I have never had the pleasure of a Christmas with my family and my husband. Instead, I got to spend it with SIL’s family whom I had only met 3 times before.

              2. Ariancita*

                Great. Now I’m sucked into reading the comments on that. Logical fallacies for all! Happy Festivus!

              3. Elizabeth*

                I read her original posting on Mothers in Medicine, which was the springboard to her post on her own blog.

                She is known on MiM for making deliberately inflammatory posts that attract a lot of comments. She thrives on controversy.

                A while back, the regular posters all discussed what led them to choose their particular branch of of medicine. Most had some experience with someone in the field that influenced them. She chose her specialty because she knew she wouldn’t ever have to work late or take call. And she makes fun of another regular, a full-time pathologist who chose her specialty after spending years watching her pediatrician father work closely with pathologists in treating premature infants and young cancer patients, as having chosen a lifestyle specialty.

            2. BW*

              Well, as an old school religiously liberal Yankee Congregationalist, I don’t like that either and I don’t do it. Religious practices, or lack thereof, are a personal matter…as are politics. :) I’ve been judged as unchristian by other people who identify with that religion for not going to church or not going to the right church or umpteen other things as well. I understand where you’re coming from with that.

              What Jamie says is how I was looking at it. It wasn’t set up as anyone preaching anything religious. It was one person wanting preference for time off because she has young children and a hypothetical individual wanting time off to attend religious services. She then judged that individual as “unchristian” and really not doing right by their religion if they would not sacrifice their holiday time for a mother who wanted to be home with children.

              The church goer could as easily judge the Dr. back for not attending religious services and staying home and saying that makes her un-whatever, and that would be equally offensive.

          2. KellyK*

            Yeah, I totally agree. I also take serious issue with the wording: “forced a single mom to have to scramble for childcare for her small children because you were in church.” The only way the church-goer is “forcing” the single mom to do anything is if they committed to work the holiday and are backing out at the last minute, or if they’re in charge of the schedule (and, even at that, only if it was last-minute or otherwise mishandled).

            1. Mike C.*

              Indeed. Last time I checked, managing coverage for work is the job of the manager, not the employees.

        2. LondonI*

          Interesting reading the replies on that blog. I’m rather alarmed that a nearly-qualified doctor can be so impervious to other points of view. I hope she listens to her patients more carefully.
          I also didn’t like the way she leapt to extremes in her responses to try to bolster her argument. For instance, when someone pointed out that having children is a choice, she somehow ended up arguing that having children isn’t a choice because having sex usually isn’t a choice. It was bizarre.
          I hope she is just trying to be controversial and isn’t as ridiculous as she comes across. Otherwise I fear for the medical profession!
          I hadn’t read her blog before. I don’t think I will again.

          1. Maia*

            I’m rather alarmed that a nearly-qualified doctor can be so impervious to other points of view. I hope she listens to her patients more carefully.
            Exactly what I was thinking! I was cringing as I read her ridiculous argument (and worse, her comments such as how teachers get holidays “every 5 minutes” and so it’s no big deal if they miss a holiday), thinking about the fate of her poor future patients.

            1. Elizabeth M*

              Yeah, as a teacher that one definitely bugged me! I do get the summers off, and the big holidays, but a) teachers are at school significantly more than the students (I’m there more than a week before they start coming in September, and about a week after they’re done in June) and b) I have pretty much NO control over my vacation schedule aside from about one personal day a year that I’m not supposed to use next to any regular vacation. That means I never get to take advantage of off-peak airfare and have missed special events (like my high school reunion) because they weren’t scheduled over major holidays.

              1. snuck*

                Don’t forget the hours you spend each week marking, lesson planning, prepping and so on.

                Teachers might get big chunks of time off, but that’s because they work a LOT of invisible(ish) hours.

      2. fposte*

        Go to the CBS version of EHR’s article–this is all based on a blog post by a doctor who felt that she should have priority for the day off because of having kids.

    2. A Bug!*

      I think that’s true for anyone, though, parent or not. You’re right that short-notice crises are a different animal from holidays, which come every year on a predictable schedule. But there are lots of crises that can happen to anybody, parent or not. (I think you’re probably on board with that idea, though.)

      1. fposte*

        Oh, yes, absolutely. And I’m not saying parents (and nonparents) can’t *ask* for holidays off for whatever reason they choose, either.

      2. Jamie*

        But there are lots of crises that can happen to anybody, parent or not.

        Sure – but while I personally would give leeway to a parent who needs to deal with a sick child, it wouldn’t be any more leeway than if they were dealing with an ill parent, SO, or other emergency.

        It’s about not defining for employees what constitutes a crisis and who is important enough to them to be their family.

        I also think when it’s abused, parents or non, that needs to be addressed swiftly so you can continue to offer flexibility to the vast majority who aren’t gaming the system.

        When one employee is trading on leniency to slack off you don’t re-write policy to clamp down on everyone…you talk to one employee.

        1. fposte*

          And I do think parents of small children tend to need that flexibility more than the average. They’re not the only ones, but at least in my world it’s more frequent than other family stuff. Which, again, isn’t a problem (something has to be the most frequent anyway), but if you’ve already benefited from the flexibility in a way that your officemates haven’t recently, insisting that you have an entitlement they don’t is pretty crappy. Has Dr. Resident Blogger needed people to cover for her when her child was ill, for instance? Is she really going to look those same people in the eye and tell them she’s more entitled to Christmas off?

          1. Jamie*

            I agree that those those who have benefited need to drop the entitlement.

            I just stopped to think about it and we’ve actually had a lot more flexibility need for people caring for elderly or terminally ill parents/in-laws than kid emergencies over the last couple of years. Maybe there’s some kind of cycle to it – or maybe we just skew a little older (late 30’s – late 50s predominantly.

            We do have quite a few younger people, but most are single/childless.

            1. fposte*

              I think office demographics play a huge role in this, since small children and frail parents are the two big (though not only) categories of ongoing need and they do tend to affect people at certain stages. The other factor is that people are often at a later stage in their career when their parents are elderly and may have earned positions of inherently greater flexibility so they don’t have to negotiate for stuff that they might have had to fifteen years previously in their career.

              I’d actually have no problem working most holidays to cover for people who really wanted them off, but I’d be ticked if I was told I was expected to cover for them because they deserved the time off and I didn’t.

              1. A Bug!*

                That last part really resonates with me and I’m glad you said it.

                I don’t mind meeting my own obligations. I don’t generally mind helping other people meet theirs, when I can. What I do mind is being involuntarily sucked into being responsible for the obligations of others.

                1. KellyK*

                  I don’t mind meeting my own obligations. I don’t generally mind helping other people meet theirs, when I can. What I do mind is being involuntarily sucked into being responsible for the obligations of others.

                  A million times this. There’s a huge difference between being asked to help someone meet their obligations and having it be assumed that it’s somehow your job (and that your obligations, whatever they are, are less important).

              2. Jen in RO*

                Exactly. Since most of my coworkers want to go back to their home towns for the holidays, I don’t have a problem working a couple of days before/after Christmas. The key here is that no one requested that from me – I just felt like volunteering.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Even if they asked, there’s a huge difference between a polite request with a graceful acceptance of a No, and expecting you to do it because they’re entitled for whatever reason.

              3. Ariancita*

                I’d actually have no problem working most holidays to cover for people who really wanted them off, but I’d be ticked if I was told I was expected to cover for them because they deserved the time off and I didn’t.

                This. I’m happy to work for anyone. All my family is across the world and I’m not Christian so I don’t mind filling in (if I had to–I’m an academic now, so it’s moot, but in the past, I’ve happily worked it). But I would have a problem with it being expected with an air of entitlement from those who got the day off.

                1. BW*

                  Absolutely, ask me nicely, and I’ll often bend over backwards to find something workable. Act entitled to my time, and you’re unlikely to get any of it. I think a lot of people feel similarly. Entitlement and being ungrateful really turns otherwise accommodating people off.

            2. Ellie H.*

              My general impression of how the world works is that in general, parents of young children will probably have more short-notice crises that would cause them to need to miss work than will people who aren’t parents of young children, due to young children getting sick more frequently, potential problems with childcare, problems at school, there being more important events in children’s lives (e.g. school performance) that it’s meaningful for parents to be at (in contrast, most meaningful events for adult family or friends tend to be held outside of normal working hours but it’s not so for school children), parents have to take their kids to doctors’ appointments and that’s a greater number of appointments than a single person who only has to take herself to doctors’ appointments, and so on and so on. So I think that if there were a policy about flexibility with time off, parents of young children would probably have more cause to make use of it. Example, I have a coworker with young children and she once took a morning off to go to a school performance. I have no such analogous activity that takes place during work hours that I’d want to take time off for. I’m hoping to have kids someday, and at that point in my life, I’ll have more reason to want to take time off, so I appreciate that that option exists for parents at my workplace. Ideally it all works out in the long run.

              I would agree that parents are not specially entitled to make use of a policy of flexibility more so than another employee with a different short-term crisis that caused him or her to miss work. At the bookstore I worked at for many years, the employees tended to be a bit older, and at that workplace, reasons for missing work on short notice have typically been health issues of parents, pets, personal health issues. It does depend on demographics.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      fposte, I agree with you that the comment about going to Christmas service was a total train derailment of an argument.

      So, let’s see. How long do services last? Mine is about an hour. One hour out of a 24 hour day. Gee, looks like I have 23 remaining hours that I would be available. The good doctor is concerned that an employee is not available for an hour. Hmmm. If one of her patients came in complaining of poor health and explained “I have to have 24 hour availability at my job, so I don’t eat well, or rest” then what would she tell that patient?
      No one, absolutely nobody is available 24/7/365. I worked for a company that was SHOCKED to find this out. Needless to say I no longer work there.

  7. Lanya*

    I have a co-worker who works from 7:30 to 4 because she has to drop off/pick up her daughter from daycare. I generally prefer to work earlier hours if I can, and when I asked my employer if I could also work 7:30 to 4, he said no. (I definitely felt slighted, because I’m sure if I had a kid to take to daycare, he would have said yes.) Being a single person in the workforce definitely does come with some built-in judgment, but I mostly try to brush it off.

    1. Mike C.*

      I hate that judgement so much.

      My significant other isn’t meaningful until I give her a wedding ring, my family doesn’t mean squat until I have a litter of kids, I’m not stable until I buy a house and so on.

      No one should be putting up with this.

      1. Jamie*

        It can work the other way, too.

        People have been offered less money and gotten smaller raises because they have a spouse and both are working. Or because employee A’s spouse makes a good living and employee B is single and their rent just went up.

        It isn’t right – or fair – and it doesn’t happen if things are being done properly but it does happen where those who are married are financially punished for having dual incomes.

        It comes back to taking “need” into account. I think an employer should be flexible when possible for life – like doctor appointments, water heaters blowing up…flexible scheduling if possible is a kind thing to do because we’re all humans and sometimes life needs to be attended to during working hours. But taking personal obligations/need into account when deciding salaries, promotions, etc. is infuriating.

        Someone shouldn’t get a heftier check because they are a sole breadwinner and have small kids to support…where I have a husband with a job and it can seem like I don’t need it as badly.

        It has nothing to do with who needs what. Are we going to compare mortgages next? Or who has kids in college? Do parents of special needs kids trump parents of kids without disabilities? It’s a ridiculously slippery slope with no fair ending.

        Pay people based on market and merit. Take into account what value they bring to the company on the job. Period. The rest is their business.

        1. Sasha*

          YES. This also crops up when people need to be fired. The management doesn’t want to fire people they deem as needy and it lowers morale for everyone else.

        2. Ariancita*

          People have been offered less money and gotten smaller raises because they have a spouse and both are working. Or because employee A’s spouse makes a good living and employee B is single and their rent just went up.

          I’ve actually seen this in reverse in my experience. The single person gets fewer raises and offered less money because they don’t have a family to support or daycare to pay for. Not saying it doesn’t happen the way you mention, but I’ve never seen it that way. I’ve only seen the opposite. Just goes to show, single, married, family, or no–entitlements based on that familial shouldn’t exist.

    2. Jamie*

      This would make sense if you both had jobs where coverage needed to be coordinated. If so, it’s possible that this isn’t necessarily because she has kids, but because she asked for that schedule first.

      But since you note that you’re sure that if you had a child-related reason to need the earlier schedule then it sucks that it’s even being taken into account.

      Except in cases where there is a good business reason for specific hours (reception, customer service come to mind) it is a huge morale boost and bank of good will to let employees have scheduling options. If you would prefer to work 7:30 – 4:00 I can’t imagine why they would say no to that unless there was a darn good reason relating to business needs or coverage.

      1. Sasha*

        If coverage is an issue, then perhaps your manager could have done what mine does – there are 4 people on my team, and he gave us a specific window that needs to be covered. We can work out our schedule amongst ourselves, as long as at least one person is covering that window. So we can trade off when we need to, and make compromises, and everyone is happy.

        Of course this involves 1) a reasonable manager 2) reasonable coworkers. For example, one person is going to school and taking evening classes, so she gets the early shift on her class days, but is willing to take the later shifts on non-class days.

        1. kasey*

          Ditto. I am so in the NO as well. My last workplace really, really suffered from bad management- systemic really. One example was our in-title-only VP (dating the boss, too- ugh) had her 13 yr old every other week, or something. On “her week” our weekly, all-hands meeting would start whenever she got around to coming in coming in- after taking the kid to school. 9, 10, 1030… Yet it stayed on the calendar (the boss insisted) so everyone would head to the conference room on the off chance that Precious was with his father and the meeting would start on time. Do I sound bitter? ;)

          1. BW*

            I have the opposite issue with coworkers who come in at 6:30 or 7:00 am due to their child care schedule and end up scheduling meetings at some ungodly dawn hour when many ppl aren’t normally in. Or the rest of us are forced not to schedule anything past 3 pm because that one person refuses to work later. It’s frustrating for the rest of us, even people with kids, when you have one person who just refuses to try to be flexible or even considerate once in a blue moon. The rest of us have other obligations too!

        2. Lanya*

          Sasha, in this case my coworker is on a different team. So if I were allowed to take the 7:30 shift, my team would actually have even better coverage, from 7:30am through 6:30pm. So I can’t figure out why I got a “no” other than the fact that I have no kids.

    3. Malissa*

      I feel you. I had a boss tell me one time that everybody in the office worked 8-5, no exceptions. Well that was unless you had kids you had to drop off at school before work. Or kids that could drive themselves but couldn’t be trusted to get out of the door on time.
      What she really meant is that those of us who didn’t have kids worked 8-5, no exceptions.

      1. Jamie*

        I would have been tempted to concoct a fictional situation where my Missy was being particularly difficult these days and needed supervision in the am. No way could I be there before 8:15 because Missy needed parenting, and isn’t that something we accommodate.

        I’d have left out the part where Missy is an elderly tabby and her “preparation for the day” is a nibble of kibble, a couple of sips of water, a trip to the litter box of her choice…and then to hiss until her favorite window perch was vacated and then position herself there until I got home.

        It’s a full day – I’m actually kind of jealous now that I’ve typed it out.

        1. Sasha*

          Reminds me of Angela from The Office bemoaning the fact that FMLA doesn’t cover bringing a new cat into the family. :)

          1. Jamie*

            Hee. I was so jealous of her cat cam where she could watch them from work.

            I recently lost a dog and this may sound ridiculous to non-animal people, but I could have really used the bereavement time that would have applied if she were human. I mean she was immediate family – so it was just the non-human part which kept the policy from applying.

            I know why they don’t – too hard to track and there are horrible people who would exploit it – but fortunately I had some vacay days on the books and used those. I needed time because it was a couple of days before I wasn’t spontaneously bursting into tears…which wouldn’t do much for my reputation around the old office.

            1. anon o*

              I agree, I was “lucky” that I had to have my cat put down on Good Friday because (I’m in Canada) I had a long weekend to recover. I also don’t have any ideas on how to fix this but it’s tough. (And on a related note…thanks to the vet staff who worked on a holiday. They were so kind and compassionate.)

            2. The Other Dawn*

              I totally agree on the bereavement time. I have multiple cats and they’re like my children (hubby and I agreed on no human children). I lost one I was very close to from feline leukemia last year and I couldn’t even see a picture of him or think about him without bursting into tears, especially the first two days afterwards. I lost another cat a couple weeks ago and again could have used a day. But, I’m sure to every non-pet person I probably sound like a nut job or the “crazy cat lady”.

              1. Spreadsheet Monkey*

                I am so sorry to hear this about the FeLV. Hopefully none of your other cats have it.

                And Crazy Cat Ladies rule!!!

                1. The Other Dawn*

                  Thank you! No one else has it miraculously. I have 10 cats now, plus one stray that I care for.

                  Yes, we do rule! :)

            3. Malissa*

              I’ve always taken a day or two off of work when I’ve lost one of my fur babies. I know it was at least 4-5 days after we lost the one I picked out as a puppy from the pound before I stopped crying spontaneously. Luckily I work with a bunch of dog lovers who understood.

            4. Elizabeth West*

              I’m sorry you lost your pet. I agree- it would be very difficult to put into practice, but oh so nice if it were a perk. If I owned a company, I’d probably let you stay home. Or at least have tons of Kleenex and let you take as many cry breaks as you needed.

              1. Jamie*

                They were pretty great about it – even after I came back I suspect word had gotten out to tread lightly on the IT until I was back to normal…whatever that is.

                I want to work in one of those offices where people bring their dogs. I wouldn’t bring mine – but I would so enjoy other people’s dogs.

      2. Kelly*

        I also feel for you. I’m single and I work two jobs. At my retail job, I have one particular co-worker who uses the “But I have a kid” excuse a bit too often to get out of less than desirable shifts. I didn’t have a Friday night off for over a month until I purposely took one as vacation day and she got stuck with it. I don’t think she’s worked a full weekend in months, even though she’s supposedly has to do one a month. I’m supposed to do every other weekend, but I get around that by working most Saturdays and getting Sundays and Mondays off in return, so it’s a fair trade off. It also doesn’t help that she’s close friends with a couple of the managers, but that’s another can of worms.

        We have been shorthanded due to a colleague being out on work-related medical leave for the past month and a half. She’s refused to work when her buddy manager calls her and someone else who isn’t familiar with the area has to come in instead. Her reasons included not missing her kid’s soccer game for one. She’s also “forgotten” to ask for time off for family vacations and PTA meetings, even though she knew the dates months ahead of time and has to beg someone else to cover for her.

        1. Malissa*

          But if you have to work Friday nights how on earth are you going to meet that special someone who will eventually provide you with a handy excuse (or two) to work what ever schedule you want?

        2. Not So NewReader*

          A bit off topic- but I had a family member that any time anything was asked of them, that person said “oh I have a kid…”. Implying the answer would be NO. But to listen to this person say that- it sounded like this person was suffering greatly under the load of having a kid. The sentence sounded something like this “ohhhhhhh BUUUT I have A KIIIIIIDDDD.”
          It sounded like a deteriorating illness not a bundle of joy.

          I wonder if parents sometimes realize how they sound. I hope the kids don’t hear that.

        3. Ellie H.*

          I had a couple-year period when I closed at the bookstore I worked at almost every night, when I was 18 and 19. Most of the people who worked there had families and I sort of felt like I “deserved” to work evenings because I was a kid and they were grownups with children and so forth. But in retrospect, it was very depressing that I never got to eat dinner with my parents at a normal hour and that I was on this gross schedule because working 1230-930 sucks and you wake up late every day. I now work 9-5 (which I fantasized about continually the entire time I worked there, even though I loved the job) but this still happens to the younger people who work there. If *everyone* worked one night a couple times a month instead of some people *never* working nights, I think it’d work out better, but oh well.

    4. Kelly O*

      Must agree with this. There is one person in our office who leaves at four every day. She does work through lunch, but her reasoning is that her son’s daycare closes at 5:30 and since our office moved, it takes her at least 45 minutes to get to daycare, so leaving at 5:00 does not work for her.

      Never mind the move was two years ago and she’s still sending him to the same daycare, and her husband is home sometimes; it’s every day at 4:00.

      It is just really frustrating to see one person get an accommodation and the rest of us not able to have flexibility in our schedules, or work from home, even though it is quite realistic. (And that’s from one “breeder” about another.)

      1. Lanya*

        Kelly, I agree – the frustrating part is that one person gets an accommodation while the rest of us do not.

        My reasoning for wanting to work earlier in the day is because I am in a creative field, and my brain is much more creative in the morning than it is anytime after lunch. So…I would probably be more productive if I could get an early start on my day.

        Oh, well.

      2. KellyK*

        Wow, yeah, that is frustrating. Not her leaving at four so much as the rest of you not being allowed to do the same.

  8. Anonymous*


    I’ve been in the workforce for 22 years and this has never come up, so maybe I’ve just been lucky, cause I didn’t even know this was an issue. It’s a ridiculous notion.

  9. Dan*

    I think the precedent here is that in every other case, the boss isn’t supposed to care about your personal life. My commute isn’t his problem; my finances at home aren’t his either.

    All of a sudden family life is supposed to become fair game for PTO wheeling and dealing? Don’t think so.

    1. Sasha*

      I saw a lot of this happening when I was in college. Some students had family members to care for, and would frequently be absent or late and expect the instructor to let them off the hook for missing class or not completing assignments on time. So it seems it’s carrying over into the work world. Then again, there were also students who did not have such obligations who expected the instructor to let them off the hook for no good reason, and that shows up in the work world too.

  10. Anonymous*

    The shifts nobody wants to do should be made more enticing (gift card raffle/free lunch/double time) or everyone gets their name thrown into a hat and picked at random.
    My old office always operated the holiday schedule based on seniority. So basically the same 4 people and all of the managers would have all the time from Thanksgiving to New Years blacked out in January. Oh and the Tuesday after a Monday holiday. Grr!

    1. Jen in RO*

      At my friend’s old job, everyone had to do a night shift (1 month) every year. It was kinda hard for her, because she had to take care of her son. But because the night shift was paid at 1.5x or 2x, there were always coworkers who wanted to swap with her – coworker got more money, she got to stay home with her kid, everybody wins! By the same token, she worked holidays (also paid 2x) because her family lived in the other corner of Europe and she didn’t travel there to see them… which let the coworkers with families free to take the days off. I think it’s the perfect system.

  11. Anonymous*

    I generally enjoy the original blog (A Cartoon Guide for Becoming a Doctor) but I’ve had to ignore it on occasion. I find it’s pretty interesting on getting another point of view, and also, on how much presentation affects your message.

    I have a devil of a time getting time off around the holidays. Unfortunately, I can’t get the rest of you to also decide to stay home and putter around the house. No, instead you like to visit culturally interesting institutions on your time off!

    Seriously, it would be nice to have one day where everyone had off. Can’t happen – hospitals, and such – but the concept has some merit.

    1. Jamie*

      I am a putterer and only leave the house as an absolute last resort like we’re out of egg nog and no one else will run to the store.

      So there are people like me who want nothing to do with anything culturally interesting when we could be home in jammies and fuzzy socks watching A Christmas Carol – almost any version.

      Maybe someday everyone will be more like me and you’ll get the day off. Yes, everyone being more like me…no problems in that scenario…

      1. BW*

        If I didn’t make the annual family rounds on Christmas, I’d be alternately napping and puttering. Unfortunately, this is the only time I see family even though they mostly live a couple towns over. My own dad just tossed another zero on his bday check rather than meet me for dinner as usual. I have to take what some of them give me, and that’s always Christmas day, dysfunction and all! :-P

        Some days I really miss blue laws, where everyone not in some essential position like working in a hospital or emergency services had Sundays and major holidays off like it or not. I think what out society needs is more puttering and less trampling each other over mediocre Thanksgiving Day shopping deals.

    2. Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady*

      I generally enjoy that blog as well, but she does go whacko sometimes. This is one of them.

      Another time she wrote about how difficult it was to buckle her daughter into the carseat because the daughter’s winter coat was so huge. Someone pointed out that it’s unsafe to buckle a carseat over a jacket and she’d solve her problem and keep her daughter safe by taking the jacket off.

      She went ballistic.

      I then posted a comment about how the carseat info was correct and I was shocked she responded with such vitriol. My comment was deleted.

      But, mostly, she’s interesting.

        1. LondonI*

          From what I could gather, reading the original blog and her later replies, she views the world from one perspective and seems unable to look at it from another. Perhaps I’m wrong to make a judgement call after reading one post and her later follow-up posts bit I found her views childish and a bit weird.

          1. martini*

            I was surprised how comfortable she was judging other peoples’ priorities, and was also struck by the ‘religious’ adherence to a single viewpoint. When you have to make up ever-more-extreme hypotheticals to support your argument, maybe it’s time to re-think!

        2. Anonymous*

          Though it goes off the rails on occasion, I still like the blog. However, I was startled to see “religious” used as an alternate word for “Christian”. I mean – seriously? Religious people come in all flavors.

      1. Elizabeth M*

        She wrote in a follow-up post, “Truthfully, I’m not passionate either way… However, I felt it would be more entertaining for you (and me) if I took a side and you got to argue with me (or yell at me, in some cases).”

        Ugh. This is a major pet peeve of mine: people who say inflammatory things, and keep sticking to their guns when challenged, all because they think it’s “entertaining.” No, not all of us are entertained.

      2. Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady*

        I just got an email from Dr. Fizzy who informed me that she didn’t delete my carseat comment because she doesn’t have the rights to do so. (It was at mothers in medicine, not her personal blog.) It was either one of her co-bloggers or a glitch in the system.

        She also assures me that her children are safe in special car seat safe jackets.

  12. Britanny*

    My husband generally takes New Years or Christmas (one or the other) in part because it is paid at a higher rate. Most of the younger people want to go out and party with their friends, and he’s actually the older guy who doesn’t mind showing up for work because we have a bit more holiday spending money.

    That said, his job also schedules Xmas leaves more than a month ahead of time so that it’s not shocking surprise and people can ‘trade’ shifts well ahead of time. After all, you wouldn’t want 40 employees en masse taking off the same week.

  13. Wubbie*

    I have a similar issue at my job.

    I work on a team with a bunch of people who are all originally from different cities than where our office is located, but I am from here.

    Of course when holiday time comes around, they all get preference for the time off because they have to travel and I’m always stuck taking all my vacation time during “meaningless” periods of the year simply because my parents happen to live down the street from me (none of us are married or have kids).

    I’m starting to feel like I need to ask my parents to move to a different city just so I can get the same consideration for time off requests.

    1. Kelly O*

      Don’t worry too much about it. I’m so far from my family and don’t get to see them very often, and it appears to be expected that I’m the one who will be here while everyone else is with their families who “live closer.”

      (Couple that with our distinct lack of paid time off, and it is more than difficult to get back home with any regularity.)

      I guess I’m saying it can work differently depending on the company. I feel like I get shorted because it’s not convenient to visit (and that I should feel guilty when I do take time off.)

  14. The Other Dawn*

    No advice to give, just wanna gripe.

    We don’t have an issue with Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s since we’re a bank and we don’t open; however, we do have people that block off all the time around those holidays every year and it’s ALWAYS the same people. That’s something that truly annoys me. Our bank is very small and a two-person department is the norm. So if one person is taking that time off, that basically means the other person will never have a chance to get that time off. We do cross-train; however, the cross-trained person in the other department will take the time also.

    1. Anonymous*

      I think I used to work there, lol. It’s true, when it is an early sign-up system and it is not monitored by managers, the same people will fill out the week off.

      I didn’t mind at first, after all I don’t have kids, and honestly I would rather have my week off to go to the big dog show (why people have kids when they could have dogs instead just mystifies me). After a while though, it became EXPECTED that I would cover all holidays. I suppose with time I had abdicated my holiday rights.

  15. Reader*

    I really dislike the part about “making using vacation days on a holiday more expensive (by requiring 2 days worth of PTO).” How on earth is that fair?

    How about we apply the 2 days = 1 day rule to summer vacations, too, to discourage too many people from taking off over the summer? Why not apply it to Fridays and Mondays, to prevent long weekends? Maybe if you want the luxury of an entire, uninterrupted week off, then that whole week counts as two.

    This reminds me of the way airlines are now figuring out ways to squeeze more money out of people. Want to check a bag? Board first? Disembark first? Sit with your children? Well, that will cost you extra.

    I would be livid if my employer created arbitrary rules like this.

    1. Anonymous*

      I get your overall sentiment, but disagree. A random Friday or Monday, or even a random day in the summer is very different than Christmas, Thanksgiving, or New Years. So its just a suggestion. If people really want that particular day off, they can choose to give up more for it.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t like this either, although I see your point that they are more valuable. If vacation days were Monopoly the holidays would definitely be Boardwalk and Park Place.

        I just don’t like the spirit of weighting it with two days since it really skews toward senior employees who will have more days to burn – typically.

        I guess taking two days for one just feels like the company is profiting off people’s desire to take this time off. If ten people did that there are 20 days the company isn’t short and employee and 20 days they don’t have to cash out at the end of the year if unused.

        As someone who firmly believes Scrooge was (mostly) right before his conversion and not after, even to me it seems crappy for a company to get out of paying earned time off just because people value not working the holiday.

        1. Jamie*

          Sorry – but one more reason why this two days for one bothers me…

          I like to think my employer finds value in me showing up each day…which I’ll assume until I hear otherwise. However, I know there are days my value skyrockets. I’m really needed on the days of the ISO audits. It would be a nightmare for them if I needed time off during inventory valuation/reconciliation or year end. Obviously IT emergencies. So there are some days where my labor is much more valuable to them than others…but my pay rate doesn’t change? My weekly salary is the same whether I worked 40 hours or 85 and whether that time was spent catching softballs or trying not to actually implode from stress.

          If what it cost to buy my time isn’t variable, than why should what it costs for me to buy a day off? The currency may be different but the principle is the same.

          1. fposte*

            Though the notion of paying OT for holidays would also negate the “always the same value” theory. However, I think any time you frame something as costing you more rather than as a way to get a greater reward, you’re already going to have people’s backs up.

      2. Reader*

        It’s really not different, though. They’re all valuable times. Lots of people like to take off time during the summer. Lots of people like to take a vacation day to further extend a three-day weekend. Lots of people like to take off an entire week.

        The point is, in these scenarios the employer just decides on their own that certain days, or times of year, or specific PTO-oriented habits are popular or in demand, and so they can just make up rules that essentially rob people of their earned days. It doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas or Arbor Day or “all Mondays and Fridays” or “any time between March 1 and August 31.” The principle is the same.

        There are plenty of other good options, so this sort of “solution” should never even need to be on the table…and if it’s that much of a problem, then the time should simply be blacked out. My husband hasn’t been allowed to take off any time between Nov. 15 and Jan. 15 for the past 5 years. It sucks, but at least it sucks for everyone identically.

        1. Adam V*

          > Lots of people like to take off time during the summer.

          Yes, but there’s an awful lot of summer to spread around. We could divvy it up and everyone in my team could take off a week, and we wouldn’t be missing more than one person at a time.

          However, there are only three days between Christmas and New Year’s. If my entire team wants to take those three days, then we’re pretty much shut down.

          (I’ll be here, I’m almost out of vacation.)

            1. Adam V*

              Pretty much we rely on each team to work things out so there’s at least a minimum level of coverage.

              The company already gave us Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve off for free – I think they realized enough people would be requesting those days off that they wouldn’t be able to provide even that minimum level of coverage to our clients.

    2. Elizabeth*

      What if they gave everyone who worked on a major holiday an extra vacation day? Would that be more palatable? (Sometimes it feels worse to have something taken than to opt not to do something for a bonus.)

      1. Jamie*

        Sure – I’d have no problem with giving people what’s basically a bonus comp day as a thank you.

        And in fact this would resolve a lot of the problem – there are a lot of people who’d love to work the holiday (no plans, kids with the ex, other family working so celebration late anyway…) You’d be surprised how as little as an extra comp day would have volunteers throwing their hats in the ring.

        Giving people more than what they’ve technically earned or accrued is a bonus. Taking away extra time they’ve already earned an accrued is just shitty and another thing altogether.

        1. Joey*

          I’ve always found a combination of incentives to show up and disincentives to call in sick are the best combo for the holidays. But for scheduling I’ve always liked bones crews with rotating coverage and an extra day of pto for the folks who can’t ever take holidays off.

          1. Anonymous*

            This all reminds me of the fall of 2008, when the Phillies won the World Series. My husband’s company announced that anyone who called out on the day of the parade would be fired. My husband had the stomach flu that day and went in to work, afraid for his job. Half his team called the company’s bluff and went to the parade. Nobody was fired and my husband puked on his keyboard.

            1. Joey*

              That’s kind of drastic. I’ve done things like extra pay, buying lunch and/or shutting down early on the holiday and losing the paid holiday if you call in the day before or after a holiday.

              1. AdAgencyChick*

                It is drastic, but I think a World Series parade is a bit of a special situation. It comes at short notice, so it’s not like Christmas where you can plan for it. And when a city is as starved for a championship as Philadelphia was at that point…EVERYBODY wants to go, and it could have shut down entire companies for a day!

                That being said, you shouldn’t make threats you can’t follow through on. And I think they should have known that people would band together and go to the parade, knowing that you can’t fire a significant portion of the staff at once.

                (I went to that parade! But then, I don’t live in Philadelphia any more, so when I asked my manager whether I could go, I wasn’t one in a line of 400 people asking.)

      2. Cassie*

        I’d rather get bonus pay than an extra vacation day or comp day. Nobody’s going to do my [office] job for me anyway, so why do I need another day off?

        I’d probably feel different if I worked retail or customer service, where someone else would be covering the shift and hence less work for me. But for office/admin work, I’d rather get paid. I know some of my coworkers prefer comp days to OT, though.

  16. Anonymous*

    A previous employer did something interesting with oncall (which was particularly brutal at that job) that could be modified for holiday pay. Assuming your position paid $52K and you had to be oncall twice a quarter, they changed the base pay to $50K and paid you a $250 bonus to be oncall. If you wanted to give up your oncall week there were always coworkers who would jump at the chance to work it for you (and there were various rules related to who could work it for you). Since you received an extra $250 in your next check, you felt like you were being compensated fairly for all of the 2 AM phone calls. As a result, those who were always tight really looked forward to being oncall. In reality, the pay for the position stayed the same but they restructured it so you felt like you were getting more (existing employees were grandfathered in and actually did get a bump when it started).

    Another benefit was when employees left. Everyone who does an oncall rotation knows what a pain it can be when someone quits in the middle of the schedule. People plan their vacations months in advance based on the schedule so it’s not as simple as just shifting everyone’s weeks. If you just divide up the extra weeks someone always ends up being oncall two weeks in a row (or close to it). When you pay $250 per week, there are always people willing to take every open week when someone quits. The same applies to when someone got sick or had a family emergency during their oncall week. Someone else would pick it up for them but then they got the $250.

  17. LCL*

    Our group does rotating shifts, so someone is always going to be working holidays. But since their schedule doesn’t change, they can find out their work days until they retire, if they are interested.

    At the first of the year we allow 2 seniority based vacation picks for the year. The picks can be for any day, but each request must be for contiguous days. And yes, one year a gamer tried “I want Thanksgiving and Christmas eve and Labor day as one request.” Then we decide based on seniority and coverage available who gets their vacations. Whatever requests come after this process is left is first come first serve. And it does work, the newer people get some holidays off, if they want. It helps that all fill in coverage is paid at 2X hourly.

    The people it doesn’t work for is those who must have a specific calendar day off every year, be it Xmas or June 19 or whatever.

  18. cncx*

    i’m sure other people in the 80 or so comments have already said it, but i will say it again: i’m so tired of the assumption that people who don’t have kids don’t have families!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I’ll raise it one more step- just because a person does not have local family does not mean it is open season on that person. Maybe that person would just appreciate some quiet time after rushing around covering everyone’s shifts for weeks on end.

      1. cncx*

        I totally agree. Had one boss look at me like I was crazy once when I asked for a couple days off in early January to recover from covering everyone’s shifts. He was all “but we just got back from vacation”…no dude, YOU and everybody else just got back from vacation.

  19. Kathryn T.*

    As the mother of two small children whose random needs make me incredibly grateful for employer flexibility, let me be the first to say that HECK NO people with kids should NOT be given priority for holidays, what the hell? Sure, spending time with your children on holidays is important, but so is spending time with your partner, or your parents, or your friends, or with the other members of your faith. No, just no.

    I like the idea of offering extra pay for working holidays, personally. I used to work at a terrible job (technical support) that did exactly that, paid holiday pay plus double time for any holiday worked. Plus you could work fewer than 8 hours if you wanted to, so I worked 5 hours of Thanksgiving in exchange for 10 hours pay. It was great, it meant that everyone who was there wanted to be there and morale was high. One of the very few things that employer got right.

  20. Wilton Businessman*

    I operate my crew on a first come first serve basis. If you want to get the week of Christmas every year and nobody else has it, you are welcome to it. The schedule favors people who can plan their vacations in advance, which I appreciate. But we’re all exempt.

  21. Anonymous*

    My partner works retail, and his manager let everyone sign up for what they wanted off for the holiday season: they could have Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve off, but would have to work on Christmas Day and Black Friday. First come, first serve for first choice. That worked well for us, because Thanksgiving is a big holiday for our families, and all our Christmas festivities take place on Christmas Eve.

    Another benefit was that they split up the Christmas shifts so no one has to work the entirety of the day.. very easy to schedule around. Might make up for having to work retail on black friday. ;)

  22. pidgeonpenelope*

    Immediately after I read just the title, my blood started to boil. Why should parents get preference? Just because I have chosen not to have offspring doesn’t mean I should be discriminated against when it comes to day off preference. Also, I didn’t agree with Evil HR Lady’s suggestions of letting employees work it out and especially, using double PTO (which in of itself looks like a lawsuit waiting to happen). At my work, it is first come, first served but in the past, at older jobs, parents did get preferential treatment which often meant that on holidays like Mother’s Day, I couldn’t spend it with my mom because I had to work. Moving forward though, the only fair way to do it is first come first served and let people volunteer to work.That’s how it is handled in my work place and no one complains.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nothing illegal about the double PTO idea. No law requires that employers offer paid vacation time, so if they do, they can structure it however they want.

      1. KellyK*

        I’m not sure why pidgeonpenelope sees this as a lawsuit waiting to happen either, but I can see it being viewed as religious discrimination if religious holidays cost double PTO, depending on how it’s structured. At least that’s my best guess…

  23. Mary*

    I remember when I first moved from New England to Alaska. I had to explain to my mother (who’d gone from working as a teacher to owning her own business and setting her own hours) that, in fact, my new coworkers were NOT going to all agree to let me take two weeks off for the holidays and cover for me just because my family lived far away. She honestly thought that they would.

    Side note: I worked at a casino during college. They had a holiday schedule based on seniority. There was a list of 5 holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day), and they divvied up the slots so that everyone could have ONE of those days off. You got to pick based on seniority, and you worked all the other holidays. Seemed fair to me.

  24. Sam Foster*

    Being a parent does not give one any special rights that shouldn’t be accorded to anyone else. If there needs to be a rule about who gets priority for time off it should be based on first requested, first granted with seniority being a tiebreaker.

  25. ARM2008*

    Wow. I’m really feeling the (non-denominational) christmas spirit here.

    I don’t have kids, don’t plan to have kids, but was once a kid. I’m OK with parents with young kids getting some special consideration at holidays, though not carte blanche. When we were little my mom worked at a hospital and the policy was you worked alternate Christmases, but she would trade with other people to get Christmas off. She always worked Thanksgiving for somebody else and we had our family Thanksgiving on the weekend, a family tradition that continues to this day :-)

    1. Mike C.*

      Why in the heck should I have to miss my family because someone else decided to have children? Should I get my wife pregnant so I can get a raise as well?

  26. KellyK*

    Yeah, I think I will jump in on the chorus of resounding “no’s.” However you do holidays, there should be some fair system. First-come/first-served with seniority as a tie-breaker is pretty fair. A rotating schedule where everyone gets a comparable number of holidays off (either not working Christmas two years in a row, or getting at least one of Thanksgiving and Christmas) is fair too. Honestly, I think it matters less how you decide and more that it’s transparent and that schedules are put together far enough in advance for everyone to plan.

    The one spot where I think parents with small children should get extra consideration is in last-minute changes. For example, if the person who was scheduled to work Christmas breaks their leg on the 22nd, I wouldn’t expect the parent of a six-year-old to cover that shift. But even there, it’s not so much “parents always trump non-parents.” It’s more “people with caregiver responsibilities can’t just shift them at the last minute, especially on a holiday.” I wouldn’t expect someone who’s caring for their elderly parent or grandparent to be able to jump in and cover that shift either.

    1. Joey*

      Hey Jen,
      Discrimination isn’t a bad word. Companies do it all the time and we encourage it. For example giving your best employees dibs on days off is discriminatory but not necessarily bad.

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