how can we equitably handle time off for religious holidays?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

With the Jewish High Holidays coming up, I’ve been thinking about how workplaces can promote equity around PTO and religious holidays. My workplace has an extremely generous amount of PTO, but I still have to use vacation time for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (and all other team members of non-Christian religions have to use vacation time for religious holidays, i.e. my organization does not give us time off for Eid, Holi, etc). I know it’s impractical to close the offices for everyone during all religious holidays of any kind, but it does seem as though Christian colleagues get an extra couple of days of vacation compared to the rest of us.

What would an equitable workplace policy be that would allow for non-Christian colleagues to celebrate our major holidays without eating into PTO? My small organization is interested in work-life balance and creating an equitable workplace, and I have a good relationship with our leadership, so I’d like to bring them a suggestion for how to remedy this.

Let’s talk about employers you’ve seen handle this well, or how you’d like to see it handled — and I’m going to ask people who celebrate Christmas to hang back and let people who need other days for religious observance take the lead on this one.

{ 869 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder that I’m asking for people who do NOT celebrate Christmas (and do need days for other religious observances) to be the voices on this one. If that’s not you, please hang back. Thank you.

  2. NandorILoveYou*

    In my experience, unlimited pto is the best solution. There still needs to be collaboration within teams of who is taking time off when, to ensure coverage, but I’ve seen it work really well.

    1. Ali + Nino*

      This would be my dream. I worked somewhere that gave floating holidays, which was nice in theory – I wouldn’t call it “generous” because really you’re just getting the same number of holidays. Unlimited PTO would help workers who 1) don’t celebrate Xmas et al. and 2) have kids whose school vacations don’t line up with just their holidays.

      1. Mio*

        Unlimited PTO do not exist. Could you take 365 days of PTO? Could you take 6 months? Could you take 4 months every year? Of course not! I’m being facetious but also showing that there obviously is a limit. “Unlimited PTO” is a nonsensical term that just means that the limit isn’t a clear policy.

        More to the point, it’s a good-looking term to actually say that there is no number of PTO you are entitled to and no right to be paid for unused earned days off at the end of your employment.

        It means whatever your employer feels like granting each individual employee that dares to ask.

        Could you take 3 months every year? Unlikely to actually happen. 6 weeks every year? 5 weeks there? It’s getting more dicey. Most people wouldn’t. But that’s an amount an employer with a generous “limited PTO” policy might give. The reality is that under so-called “unlimited PTO” policies, employees take less time off on average. Which makes sense: they haven’t earned a PTO and they know there’s a limit but not exactly where it is, so they can’t take the max.

        1. TK*

          Unlimited PTO doesn’t mean you can take 365 days off, and I always feel like that’s an overly literal read of the term. It means you aren’t limited by an accrual of PTO. In every place I’ve worked with unlimited PTO, there are defined limits on what threshold you can take without needing extra approval, e.g., taking time during peak periods, taking more than 2 weeks off at a time. You are right that there are also often cultural or other “soft” limits on PTO, but that also existed for me in companies with limited PTO. That’s a company culture problem that exists with or without unlimited PTO. (At one company I was at, you’d earn 6 weeks a year, but good luck on trying to use it!)

        2. Orv*

          “Unlimited PTO” is really just a dodge for getting around state laws that require paying workers for unused PTO.

        1. devtoo*

          I’m on my third unlimited PTO workplace now and I’ve seen it work best when there are (formal or informal) PTO minimums (like unlimited with a 15 minimum, and realistically most people take 20-25). Absent that, having a strong culture of people, especially managers, modeling or encouraging time off. It definitely can work well when implemented right, but of course there are a lot workplaces where it ends up being less PTO, or wildly inequitable PTO

          1. Chauncy Gardener*

            100% agree with this.
            I think say, 4-6 floating holidays, in addition to the Federal (if in US) holidays could work really well
            Unlimited vacation isn’t really the panacea everything thought it would be, IMHO

            1. Ms. Murchison*

              Giving extra holidays doesn’t solve the issue of people who celebrate Christmas getting extra time off over people who have to use PTO for their own holidays.

                1. Ms. Murchison*

                  It’s a day off when I’d rather work, when I can’t go do errands because things are closed, when I can’t even go out to the movies anymore because they’re swarmed, when I avoid going out because everywhere you go has been playing playing Christmas music nonstop for months. I’m being forced to observe your holiday.

                2. Smurfette*

                  Yes, but we don’t really want that. It would be like your company closing for Rosh Hashana and expecting you to take a day of PTO to celebrate Xmas.

              1. Llama Groomer*

                isn’t the suggestion to take away the automatic Christmas (etc) holidays and give X number of floating holidays in their place, which people could use for Christmas and Easter, or the High Holy Days, or Eid, depending?

                1. nnn*

                  ShanShan: Many workplaces don’t observe all federal holidays (for example, Columbus Day, President’s Day). They can open any days they want.

            2. Quite anon*

              I’m curious how floating holidays would work for people who don’t celebrate anything. Would it just translate into everyone gets an extra six days of PTO?

              1. Tiny Orchid*

                Yes – and in states where PTO is considered a benefit that is accrued (CA and CO, maybe others?) the big difference is floating holidays, personal time, etc. do not carry over to the next year, where PTO is required to.

          2. I Have RBF*

            Yes, unlimited with a minimum that is semi-formal would work best. I’m lucky in that my manager models good usage of time off, and never quibbles about me taking off for appointments or sick time, either.

        2. Ace in the Hole*

          Generous amount of paid time off which can be scheduled according to the employee’s needs/desires.

          For example my employer gives a minimum 26 paid days off per year – on top of separate leave pools for paternity/maternity, sick time, bereavement, etc. Unused days can be carried over to the next year. That’s enough for everyone to take whatever holidays they observe, take time off to deal with personal business or family obligations, and still have a chunk left over for vacations.

          Importantly, our management takes pride in their track record of approving time off requests… even though almost all of us are in coverage-based on-site roles, and even though we operate 7 days a week, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a supervisor deny someone’s leave request. No matter what system is used, it’s pointless if people can’t actually take their PTO when they need to (or have to fight for it every time).

          1. bmorepm*

            that doesn’t really address the issue though-recognizing that those celebrating Christmas get additional days off that they don’t have to dip into leave for at the appropriate times.

            1. Student*

              I don’t think we should let the perfect be the enemy of the good, though.

              I think it’s more important to give non-Christians good options for recognizing holidays than to make sure the Christians don’t get a better set of time-off options than others.

              One of the big, fundamental barriers around Christmas in particular is that it is a legislated federal holiday in the US. And that is not going to change until Christians decide they want it to change, given current voter demographics. It’s going to be a special holiday because the law says so and because a large majority of the voters in the country wants it that way.

              That’s not fair, nor in keeping with the separation of church and state. However, precisely because it is so intractable to change, we should not hold up ideas that make some progress toward letting non-Christians get time off for their holidays chasing after a vision of a perfect religious equality that we likely won’t reach in my lifetime.

              1. Indigo a la mode*

                Agreed – and another factor is that, like it or not, weeklong school holidays are scheduled around Christian holdiays like Easter and Christmas. Parents of any religion are still likely to need time off or flexible time around Christian holidays because their children will be out of school.

                I am hugely in favor of giving a floating holiday instead of Christmas Day for everyone, though I realize it’s unlikely. At the same time, one floating holiday won’t be enough for, say, Jewish people in the upcoming High Holiday season.

                1. EchoGirl*

                  I think on top of that, depending on the job, having them work on a day when the majority of people are taking off — whether because they celebrate, kids are off from school, or whatever — may just not be workable. If it’s a job (or there’s a part of the job enough to take up a day) they can do on their own, that’s one thing, but some jobs (and not just obvious customer service) are predicated on interactions with other people, so if those people aren’t working/using the service/whatever, there’s nothing for the employee to do.

                2. Never Boring*

                  And people need to keep in mind that those observing a minority holiday are, you know, spending their time observing the holiday and don’t have time for double homework. Not that I am still bitter or anything.

            2. Ace in the Hole*

              Sure it does. Just treat all holidays like every other day of the year.

              Everyone gets X days of PTO. People who want to take a day off for Christmas can do so by using one of those days, just like people who want to take a day off for any other holiday or obligation.

              1. ShanShan*

                Parents are still going to need to take Christmas off regardless, because their kids won’t be in school. That’s going to be true of not only all major Christian holidays, but also, generally, the week surrounding each one.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Yea, eliminating PTO entirely is “equitable” but not exactly a popular solution.

        1. ferrina*

          We do an informal PTO minimum. HR loosely tracks how much PTO people take, and will reach out if you aren’t taking enough to encourage you to unplug and take time off. They’ll also notify your manager, and it’s a bad look on your manager if their people aren’t taking PTO.
          They kind of keep an eye on who takes a lot of PTO, but they don’t track it as closely as who isn’t taking PTO. “Too much” is pretty subjective, so they track performance more than PTO. If you are a high performer and taking a ton of PTO, they’ll count it as a great retention strategy. (love my HR!)

          1. Mad Harry Crewe*

            The dreaaaammmmmm. My org has “unlimited” with an informal *max* of 3 weeks. I have always politely ignored that nonsense – as long as my manager approves, it’s never caused me problems.

      2. Ex Radio*

        I have unlimited PTO and even if that might be true, I prefer it. It’s really nice not having to plan my entire year in January to make sure I use my limited PTO days wisely. Unlimited just takes that stress off. If I did want to go to Europe for 3 weeks, I could. If I want to take an odd Friday off, no big deal. I think this is a great option for improving equity and general employee happiness/flexibility.

      3. I Have RBF*

        Generally true, unless your management models actually taking time off, like mine does.

        Unlimited PTO can accommodate religious holidays without as much stigma. I am still getting used to mine, but I might finally be able to take the 8 holidays of my religion off.

    2. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      Sorry, but I would HATE that. My spouse had unlimited PTO and it ended up being extra problematic when we had lots of 1-2 days of holidays right in a row. People would get a 3 week trip to Europe, but there were issues with religious stuff. And it became “no PTO” in reality on some teams.

      1. bmorepm*

        I don’t understand what you’re trying to convey here-are you able to expand? why did the 1-2 day holidays cause issues and by “issues with religious stuff,” do you mean they wouldn’t approve leave for those holidays?

        1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

          I mean that people from strongly Christian backgrounds (or non-religious ones) sometimes couldn’t wrap their heads around needing 2 days off for Rosh Hashanah, one for Yom Kippur, two for the Sukkot, and then two for Shimoni Atzeret and Simchas Torah, all in close succession.

          The leave might be approved, but people get weird/cranky/disbelieving about it. Sometimes it was just subtle stuff (“Really? MORE holidays?”) other times it’s grumbling stuff like “must be nice to have so many holidays, wish I did” kinds of things. Most of all, “My takes of Rosh Hashanah, but I’ve never heard of this Sukkot thing” with the implication you are making it up.

          People would “get it” for medical stuff that required 1-2 days off for a few weeks in a row, or the same number of days taken in a row for vacation, but it was just weird enough to their sense of normal that it caused problems or the impression of problems. I think some people assumed it was interviewing for another job!

          1. Another hippo*

            I was at a company that offered unlimited PTO – until I arrived, and took off all the holidays you mentioned, and dared to also need more sick leave than my coworkers due to a disability. The policy was changed to 10 days for sick and vacation combined. I ended up having to take A LOT of unpaid time off, and was regularly chastised and told how lucky I was they kept me around despite my “complicated” needs. Probably not legal…but it was a small company with no HR, and I wasn’t in a position to fight it. Just got out of there as soon as I could.

            I do think, though, that at a workplace that doesn’t abuse its workers, unlimited PTO is the way to handle this, along with flexibility to work remotely (so if you travel to see family for Passover, for example, you can work from there on the interim days, and not have to worry about missing a whole week of work, especially if you have projects you need to cover). Every other workplace where I had unlimited PTO honored my vacations, medical needs, and holidays. In those companies, I felt like I could exist as a religious Jew with a disability who was also a hard worker and top performer and deserved an occasional mental break like everyone else.

            1. Lozi*

              I’m so sorry you had that experience, and I’m really glad you’re also found places that honor you for who you are!

            2. a good mouse*

              From “unlimited” to 10 combined sick and vacation days? I’d be pissed, that’s super stingy and if I was hired in as ‘unlimited.’

          2. Captain Swan*

            was there a requirement to say what you were using the PTO for?
            Ideally, it shouldn’t matter if you need the day off for a religious observance, medical appointments, or because you want to binge watch the new season of Bridgerton on Netflix the day it comes out. The answer to can I take X day off should be either yes, no because , or maybe if . I would have stopped telling management what it was for especially if it’s unlimited PTO.
            But that’s a mileage may vary approach since we don’t live in an ideal world.

            1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

              It was more an issue with coworkers than management… and people can put things together. Orthodox Jews tend to be identifiable by clothing, and these things come up on occasion. Also, people will just… ask. “Oh, I see you’re out again next week – is everything ok?” Sometimes it’s only a problem the second year… or if Passover ALSO falls mostly during the work week. Honestly, this year only Yom Kippur is hitting the work week and it’s going to be super stressful (no weekends -arg!) but I’m also kinda glad I don’t have to go through the… “no I can’t make it that day” dance.

            2. Flexability is Key*

              That’s where we landed – a day of personal importance, no strings attached. A colleague who used it for the anniversary of a death of a loved one was particularly appreciative as she doesn’t observe a religion that necessitated a day off.

          3. Itsa Me, Mario*

            I’ve definitely seen the “REALLY? MORE HOLIDAYS?” thing or vague distrust of folks who both take off their religious holidays *and also* take the same liberal attitude towards vacations as the rest of the team. Like you can either participate in your religion and cultural heritage, or you can value travel and the ability to reset, you can’t have both. In the minds of some folks.

            Frankly I don’t think there is a way for company policies to solve for this via their PTO policy. I think it’s just straight up antisemitic/xenophobic.

            1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

              I think that it’s never going to completely be covered by PTO — we have A LOT of holidays! Way more than most Christians have covered by federal holidays. I think “equitable” would include things like:

              -We cover Dec 24-25 and they cover Rosh Hashanah (for places that are 24/7, like hospitals).
              – If they can get flex time for going to services on Ash Wednesday, we can get the same for catching a reading on Purim

              Honestly, I think for some medium sized businesses in metro areas, they should consider solving their “who works Christmas” problem by hiring Orthodox Jews and similar — and swapping holidays.

              1. Never Boring*

                What about those of us who are from a religious minority but married to Christians? Are we supposed to skip family holiday celebrations?

                1. Quite anon*

                  The what do atheists do question makes me think just giving extremely plentiful PTO would be the best option, and giving everyone a free day of PTO for Christmas without making them spend from their PTO bank. That way the federal holiday is observed, without anyone having to spend their PTO on it. Would this benefit Christians more than others? Yes, slightly, but only slightly, because while I’d prefer to just do away with Christmas as a federal holiday, I don’t see that happening any time soon. But everyone deserves the same opportunity to take time off to physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually rejuvenate, and giving people from one religious group more opportunity than the others doesn’t seem right.

                2. But Not the Hippopotamus*

                  Never Boring, please don’t take my comment other than it was intended.

                  It is obviously not a catch all and when I said “Orthodox Jews and similar” the implication was “people who aren’t celebrating Christmas with their immediate family.”

                  Even as an Orthodox Jew, I have family that celebrates Christmas (my father is Catholicm and yes, it’s complicated)… the point was that sometimes the diversity can be helpful and be used to everyone’s benefit rather than seen as just a PITA.

            2. dip the apple in the money*

              I use all my PTO for my holidays. My coworkers take 3 week vacations in the summer.

              In the eyes of my workplace, these are exactly the same.

          4. Smurfette*

            Part of the problem at this time of the year is that we disappear for 2 days, come back, disappear for a day, come back, and then disappear again – twice – for 2 days each time. It’s very confusing for people. Especially when those days fall mid-week.

            1. But Not the Hippopotamus*

              Right… and it changes from year to year how it falls, so people can’t quite “get used to it.”

    3. learnedthehardway*

      One of my clients had unlimited PTO, which has changed to something else – I think because too many people were finding that while PTO was theoretically unlimited, they had to get their managers’ approval and that was very uneven across the company. Some managers were fine with people taking a lot of time off, so long as their work was being done. Others were much less fine with that. Result – who you reported to determined how much actual vacation time you got. Big mess, lot of unhappy people.

    4. Cabubbles*

      I find that unlimited pto is just a ploy so that companies don’t have to pay out unused pto if you leave.

      1. H3llifIknow*

        Yes and employees also abuse the no pay back loophole. “Before I put my notice in I’m taking a 3 week paid vacation to Europe and I won’t have to pay back a penny of that when I quit.” I’ve seen it happen and it’s infuriating. I’m personally NOT a fan of unlimited PTO having experienced it in a couple of companies.

          1. H3llifIknow*

            Glad you don’t work for/with me then. Knowing one is quitting and taking a paid vacation on the company dime and immediately putting in notice upon return is unethical and just a bad look. It’s one thing if one is ON vacation and a job they applied for calls and offers it and they accept, but planning and executing AFTER they’ve accepted another position is just a crappy move. Some of us have a work ethic and way too much integrity to do this.

            1. Itsa Me, Mario*

              I’m confused what there is to pay back or how any of this is “on the company dime”? Are they taking work trips that aren’t related to essential business, as a sort of quiet quitting stealth vacation, or something?

              I’m also not clear on how exactly this could even be a deliberate thing. Is the idea that these folks received and accepted a job offer elsewhere, then asked for PTO to go on vacation (so, one week or more, usually scheduled in advance), had that request accepted, went on the vacation, came back, gave notice, and then went off to the other job? That’s like a month of lead time, minimum. How many jobs allow new hires to just not start for a month so that they can max out their PTO at their current job?

              I’ve definitely been in the position of going on vacation, coming back to work for a couple weeks, and then getting an offer for that job I interviewed for well beforehand, absolutely unrelated to my vacation. What was I supposed to do, turn down the offer? Never take PTO in case I applied for an outside role and got it?

            2. No Longer Looking*

              There is a lack of ethics on both sides of this coin, and your sense of integrity seems to be heavily skewed towards allowing companies to take unfair advantage of you.

            3. Nina*

              I would have zero problem with this. If your company has a policy that penalizes people for not taking PTO – e.g. unlimited PTO can’t be paid out when you leave, therefore, if you take 5 weeks in a year and then leave, congrats, you’ve got effectively 5 weeks more pay than your ‘high work ethic and integrity’ colleague who took 0 weeks off and then left… yeah, if you’re not going to give people their due because it’s convenient for you, you have to expect them to take it whether that’s convenient for you or not.

            4. Aitch Arr*

              “paid vacation on the company dime”

              Vacation is part of one’s compensation package, plain and simple.

              Also, if the company was in a state that required payout of unused, accrued vacation upon termination or did so as a policy, they’d be paying the employee anyway.

            5. Moonstone*

              But the employee isn’t taking a vacation “on the company dime.” That implies that the company is actually paying for the vacation itself. The employee would be getting paid either way if they are using PTO for those vacation days or if they were working so what difference does it really make?

        1. StephChi*

          I don’t understand why you think it’s a problem for people to use the PTO they’ve been granted as part of their compensation package. I also don’t understand why people would have to pay it back when they resign, if they have it. I’m not being snarky, I’m really curious about why you think this isn’t OK.

          1. Wilbur*

            I think they’re somehow merging the old system (you earn 10 hrs PTO/month) and the unlimited vacation system. Doesn’t quite make sense to me, but most places expect you to start in 2 weeks anyway.

        2. Out Of Office*

          It’s infuriating to you that…employees take off time that they have accrued?? Of course they don’t have to “pay back” their vacation days, just like they don’t have to pay back the salary they already earned!

          1. H3llifIknow*

            “It’s infuriating to you that…employees take off time that they have accrued??”

            Unlimited PTO isn’t accrued. I’m not sure you understand the concept of it. The point of it, is in fact, that it is NOT accrued. One is trusted to take it as needed. It’s just there.

            “Doesn’t quite make sense to me, but most places expect you to start in 2 weeks anyway.”

            What happens is people search for another job, accept it or interview with the expectation of accepting it, tell the new employer “I have a vacation scheduled; I can start X date in the future” and then tell the current employer “I’m taking 2-3 weeks of PTO” and come back and quit. I personally have started up to 6 weeks after accepting a job. It’s not like it can’t be done. It’s really not complicated. I’ve seen it happen several times because for some reason, a lot of employees think that it’s cool to “stick it to their employer” when they quit, whether there is cause or not.
            “I also don’t understand why people would have to pay it back when they resign, if they have it”
            Regular PTO, if taken BEFORE accrual, puts an employee “in the hole” and is paid back out of the final paycheck, but with “unlimited” one can take far more than they normally would and there’s no payback (or pay out to the employee if they don’t take any), so essentially the could work a few months, take several weeks of PTO and then just…leave. I’m baffled at how confused people are at this.

            “Is the idea that these folks received and accepted a job offer elsewhere, then asked for PTO to go on vacation […], had that request accepted, went on the vacation, came back, gave notice, and then went off to the other job? That’s like a month of lead time, minimum.”
            Maybe where YOU work, there’s a “month” lead time, but where I’ve worked, it’s as simple as “I’ll be out next week/next 2 weeks.” I do not and never have asked permission to take PTO and if your employer treats you like an adult, you shouldn’t have to.

            “I’ve definitely been in the position of going on vacation, coming back to work for a couple weeks, and then getting an offer for that job I interviewed for well beforehand, absolutely unrelated to my vacation. What was I supposed to do, turn down the offer?”

            You clearly didn’t read what I wrote in my original post, “It’s one thing if one is ON vacation and a job they applied for calls and offers it and they accepts,” etc… My issue isn’t with people taking a planned vacation that just happens to coincide with a new job starting soon (although EVERYwhere I’ve worked, once notice is given, PTO is frozen). It’s with people taking PTO KNOWING they aren’t going to give the company/client any value/work for it once they return since they’ll be leaving immediately.
            I get that this chat tends to skew VERY heavily “anti-employer” because “they all suck and they all want your blood and sweat for nothing,” but that *knock wood* hasn’t been MY experience and I certainly wouldn’t feel right doing it if I KNEW I was leaving. I prefer to leave a position with my integrity intact and without feeling like ‘hahahaha I put one over on THOSE jerks!”

          1. H3llifIknow*

            Actually they couldn’t. Under standard PTO systems, PTO is accrued. If the employee takes PTO they haven’t yet accrued, that is taken out of their final paycheck. If the employee gives notice, PTO is typically not permitted to be taken during the period of notice. So, no it couldn’t “happen under any system.”

    5. Bob-White of the Glen*

      I would never use it. Unlimited PTO works for those who use it, but those of us (with a definitively Catholic guilt bend) would never take time off. This would be very inequitable in that some of the lousy employees I work with would be off all the time (they have been abusive even with our incredible leave policy), whereas the busiest/most overworked who can’t walk away from overloads would just keep working.

      Fortunately I work somewhere that has 10 – 11 holidays (everyone off), 4-5 personal days (I get 4), 12 sick days, and 18 – 23 vacation days (I get 23, everyone can work up to 23 over time) each year. The only “religious holiday” we get off is Christmas, so if you want Christmas Eve, Good Friday, etc. off you have to use leave. Time off is critical, and the people least likely to take it are the ones who need it the most. Good managers are encouraging recharging time, and building a work plan around it. I think is about as fair as you can get. But I do work somewhere with great benefits (including leave) and just okay pay.

        1. Zelda*

          The practice I’ve seen is that you get more vacation (~1-3 weeks/year, depending on seniority), but it has to be scheduled 30 days in advance and approved by a manager (who might deny specific dates for coverage or workload reasons). Personal days are sharply limited (1-2 days/year), but don’t have to be scheduled in advance– basically, they give you a way to deal with “oh crap, the pipes burst, I have to spend today mopping and waiting for the plumber and it can’t wait until tomorrow,” pet health emergencies, etc.

        2. Zach*

          In most places, a personal day is basically just a vacation day that you can use day-of like a sick day, unlike vacation which usually needs to be scheduled in advance. It’s often used for what a lot of people refer to as “mental health days”- just deciding you need a break from work for a day but aren’t physically sick.

        3. Bob-White of the Glen*

          Good answers already. But the personal day is more for the unscheduled life events (plumbing emergency, etc.) while vacation needs to be approved by the supervisor. I have a great staff so we use it interchangeably, and I often use it first because it doesn’t role over, but mostly just slightly different rules. Obviously, unless just a terrible employee, you can use vacation if your house explodes (hopefully not literally) and you are out of personal days.

      1. Willow Sunstar*

        Well, I’d still have to take some because my immediate family members are a 4-hour drive away. As an example, every year, I have to take a minimum of half-day Thanksgiving Wed. for the drive, and a full day Thanksgiving Friday, unless I get approved to work from the remote location. This is of course, depending on weather. Living in the upper Midwest means we do have blizzards in November sometimes.

    6. Stella*

      My company was founded by an Orthodox Jew and most of our dev team is also Orthodox and we have unlimited PTO for this very reason.

      1. Smurfette*

        I want to work at your company.

        Religious holidays eat up most of my leave, and that’s after negotiating my company up from 4 weeks to 6 weeks of paid leave. I also have a mandatory 2-3 week leave period over December which comes out of my paid leave.

    7. Itsa Me, Mario*

      My company has unlimited PTO, and it helps in the sense of folks not running out of PTO because they also had to use it for religious holidays.

      But since the Christian holidays are still either official days off or de facto days where it’s understood that no real business is going to be transacted (the week between Christmas and New Years), it’s still not quite as equitable as some other more ideal solution. Folks who celebrate other holidays still need to be out of the office on a day when everyone else is there, meetings are happening, deals are going down, etc. while Christians have the unexamined privilege of assuming that the company stops when they stop. My company has tried to use internal comms to remind folks not to schedule key meetings on non-Christian religious holidays, but it still happens every year.

    8. H.C.*

      Another vote for hating this system. I work in a state that requires paying out banked PTO time, which I would like to have as an option for an additional financial cushion. An unlimited PTO plan would essentially eliminate this.

    9. MBK*

      The downside to unlimited PTO is that it doesn’t accrue, and therefore doesn’t need to be paid out at separation. Coupled with the fact that a lot of employers *say* unlimited PTO, but create a work environment and schedules that make it difficult if not impossible to actually use it. Regular, accrued PTO at least keeps employers accountable for paying for the time off they don’t let their employees take.

    10. Moonstone*

      If you look in the post right above this one, Alison is quoted in an article about the downsides of unlimited PTO. So there is definitely an argument against going that route.

    11. Michael*

      Thats what my company does and I agree it makes the most sense. We used to have PTO, Medical Leave, Parental Leave, Volunteer Time Off and Floating Holidays. They decided it made more sense to just combine all of those into Flex Time Off AKA unlimited PTO. It’s much simpler, HR has an easier life, and not a single person has attempted to abuse it thus far.

  3. Marie*

    Floating holidays! A prior company I worked for granted two “Floating Holiday” days to be used at the employee’s discretion. These were independent of PTO, everyone got 2 at the beginning of the year regardless of seniority.

    1. AnotherSarah*

      Okay but 2 doesn’t cover the number of days observant Jews, for example, can’t work according to Jewish law. So there would have to be other provisions as well.

      1. cindylouwho*

        I don’t think it’s meant to cover every possible religious holiday you’d want to take off, but make it more equitable about how people have to use PTO.

        1. ShanShan*

          It’s not that equitable, though. A lot of Christians get the better part of a week off just for Christmas.

          1. Anna*

            Are you saying that a lot of companies give 3+ days off for Christmas? I haven’t heard of that, other than schools that close for Christmas Break/Winter Break. It is common to have Dec 25 as a paid holiday, and some companies give Dec 24 too (or at least a half day on Dec 24).

            1. JM60*

              My company gives days off for Christmas Eve and Christmas, then New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day the next weekend (with a holiday being observed on Friday or Monday if it falls on a Saturday or Sunday). It’s not 3+ extra consecutive days off, but it usually ends up being a 4 day weekend, followed by a 3-day workweek (that many people use vacation for), followed by another 4-day weekend. That’s how it will be this year.

              Plus, they decide 1 particular day each year to be a “floater holiday”. They effectively use it to attach a Tuesday or Thursday Holiday to a weekend to give more consecutive days off. So if Christmas Eve and Christmas fall on a Wednesday and Thursday, they might select Friday, Dec 26th as the floater holiday.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, but if it’s only for religious purposes, that wouldn’t exactly be fair to atheist/agnostic coworkers either, would it?
          I mean, not giving any religious holidays but “floating holidays” or, you know, just more PTO to everybody certainly seems like the most fair solution to me.

          1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

            Isn’t that what floating holidays are in effect? I use them as an extension of my PTO. If need three days off at the beginning of the year, I use my flotaing holiday for day one and PTO for days 2-3. I don’t actually save it for a holiday.

          2. Spencer Hastings*

            The problem with just giving everyone more PTO would be that the atheists (or anyone who has a religion that doesn’t require time off work to observe) would have all those days available to do whatever they want, while people who do need days off for religious holidays have to cut into that PTO. Of course, having to take 6 PTO days for religious holidays is more of a problem if you have a total of 10 days than if you have 30 — but it’s still a problem. (And, if I recall correctly, the LW said they have “generous” PTO already.)

            There’s always a tradeoff: do you give everyone plenty of PTO and everyone will use it for the things that are important to them (including religion)? Or do you offer extra days off that are only useable for religious holidays? Opinions will differ as to which is more fair. Personally, I think the second option is kind of sketchy because you’ll systematically be getting (or at least expecting) more hours of work per year out of some people than others, and it seems to privilege religion over non-religion in general — but I see that people have already suggested that second option elsewhere in these comments, which probably means they think option 1 is even worse.

            1. zinzarin*

              Giving extra days off that can *only* be used for religious holidays would actually be discriminatory (against atheists). Unlimited (or at least abundant) PTO is by far the most equitable.

              1. Spencer Hastings*

                I agree with that, but I’m not sure if US law does. (I think if it were straightforwardly the case, the Groff v. DeJoy decision would have been a little different.) There are a lot of things that seem discriminatory against atheists, but legally aren’t considered to be so.

                1. JM60*

                  With the current SCOTUS, US law effectively privileges religion.

                  In the Groff v. DeJoy case, the guy was hired to be a “weekends and holiday” mailman, effectively filling in when others are off. He demanded to not work on Sundays. Even though that’s roughly half of the day his position was intended to work, SCOTUS ruled in his favor because his demands were motivated by religion.

                  The US court system has changed a lot since Scalia rules in Employment Division v. Smith that religious liberty doesn’t grant exemptions from peyote prohibitions, since such privileges would “in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.”

              2. wanda*

                There are also cultural holidays that aren’t religious. My mother’s hairdresser is Chinese, and literally the *only* day she doesn’t work, in the entire year, is Chinese New Year. But that’s not a religious holiday- it’s a cultural holiday.

            2. Chief Bottle Washer*

              How is that a problem? It’s not for the employer to judge how time off is used (in general), but rather to supply enough paid time off that folks can reasonably cover any variety of life stuff, including vacation, family obligations, religious observance, etc.

            3. Student*

              As an Atheist, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t treat us like we ought to be left out of people getting time off for religious reasons by saying we “do whatever [we] want”.

              We are a religion. We do not have set, coherent theology with specific days in the calendar we need to take off, that’s true – there are specific and substantive differences.

              We can still use religious-related leave for things important to our religious beliefs, or to our moral beliefs. I’ve used floating holidays as a change to participate in volunteer activities for my community that I wouldn’t otherwise get to do.

              1. Spencer Hastings*

                Huh?! I’m an atheist myself, though I don’t think about it the same way you do. (I consider myself not to have religious beliefs at all.)

                I made my own opinion clear at the very end of my post — I was bending over backwards to be charitable to the majority opinion on this site (and of US legal precedent), but it looks like I bent over backwards too far.

              2. What*

                No!? Born and raised second-generation atheist here, and that is absolutely not true even for culturally Christian atheists, let alone Jewish, Hindu etc athiests! (In fact the latter two are often religiously Jewish and Hindu, rather than only culturally.) I’m not sure what the ideal solution in the eyes of US law would be, but religious days off are for *ritual obligations* –which my mother and I never had!– not vacations!

              3. MCMonkeyBean*

                Um no we are not a religion. If you want to use time off for volunteering that’s cool, but that has nothing to do with atheism.

                1. JM60*

                  Fun fact: You can be an atheist (i.e., not someone who doesn’t believe in a deity), and belong to one of several religions. Not all religions involve belief in a deity (though most do).

                  Atheism is no more a religion than theism is.

              4. Oryx*

                Who is we?

                I’m not trying to be snarky. But I absolutely do not consider my beliefs to be religious in any single way and you do you and all but please don’t speak for the rest of us.

              5. Pescadero*

                As an Atheist, it’s not a religion.

                Religion has it’s very basis in belief. Atheism is, by definition, the LACK of belief.

                1. tamarack etc.*

                  Basing religion in belief is a very Christian way of looking at this. Also, western-style non-religious atheism is very much founded in a belief.

                  I think the commenter upthread who pointed out that privileging religious holidays is still not gonna cut it, and that cultural holidays don’t have to be religious.

                  Seems to me that what emerges here is some mix of:

                  – reduce gradually the “Christian holidays as default days off” concept (*), keeping in mind that that’s not something the organization has full control over (cf. parents who appreciate when company holidays cover school holidays)
                  – give some version of unlimited PTO *with a reasonable minimum [at *least* 3 weeks] that cashed out when leaving*
                  – work on internal culture so that taking holidays and festivals off isn’t weird and people have a minimum level of cultural competency around what holidays people from various cultures may celebrate

                  (*) I looked at the holidays my organization (a US public college) observes, and only part of the winter break (11 days off including Christmas and New Year) is explicitly Christian, at least if we count Thanksgiving as secular.

            4. I'm just here for the cats*

              Holidays don’t have to be religious. There are plenty of non-religious holidays that someone could use it for. Veterans Day, Earth Day, Halloween, world mental health day or important family and/or cultural days that are not religious. There’s also the meaning of “holiday” that the British use which basically means vacation.

              Also, there are many Christians who get Christian holidays off and don’t use them for religious purposes. An employer should not be looking at how religious an employee is to see if they should or should not get time off.

              1. amoeba*

                Yup. Honestly, like 95% of the Christian holidays here in Europe are… just not used for any kind of religious observance by just about anybody.

                Also, you can be an atheist and still culturally Christian, Muslim, or whatever! At least hereabouts, the majority of strict non-believers I know still celebrate their cultural holidays. As family gatherings, for gift-giving, for specific foods, whatever.

                I use the Christian ones because they are prevalent in the country I live in but honestly, if I moved to an Islamic country, I’d have absolutely no problem with celebrating Eid Mubarak instead (if people would have me, of course, you know, no idea how the view is on outsiders participating!).

                It’s very decoupled from religious for most people here.

              1. Spencer Hastings*

                No, I was summarizing what the response would be from the other side (which I happen to disagree with, but it’s the majority opinion on this site.) I gave my opinion at the bottom of my post. I summarized both just to make the point that there’s not a good, straightforward answer to this question.

            5. Quite anon*

              I don’t see how this is a problem. If someone is religious, and taking a day off for a religious holiday, one would expect participating in said religious holiday to be spiritually, emotionally, physically, or mentally rejuvenating for them, either from participating with family, or because, as a believer, participating in the holiday is something they enjoy because it calls to them. This is no different from an atheist taking time off to rejuvenate.

              1. ShanShan*

                Speaking as a religious Jewish person, I agree with the spirit of your response, but sort of chuckle at the idea of the High Holy Days being restful and rejuvenating.

        2. Brooklyn*

          That’s that person’s choice. My Christian coworkers go to church every Sunday. I do not. It would be ridiculous to suggest that they should be able to take off every Monday morning, because I was having fun and going on hikes while they were observing their religion.

          Everyone should be able to take time off for things that are important to them. No religion should be rewarded with additional time off. But you’re never going to get “everyone has the same amount of fun PTO time” without being incredibly invasive into everyone’s personal lives. Otherwise, you’re just rewarding people for being religious. I don’t want to have my attendance taken at my local Satanic Temple in order to get more PTO.

          1. K Fearon*

            At the moment though there is compulsory time off for Christian holidays. My employer closes completely between Christmas and New Year. The buildings are locked. Nobody works except a skeleton team of essential/security staff. The same over Easter – we all get Easter Monday even though many of us don’t celebrate it.

            1. EAM*

              This purely depends on your field of work. There are many industries that work those holidays. And most work the dates between. We also have to examine that Christmas is a federal holiday. It is the only non-secular federal holiday. So employers have a ton of leeway in only granting federal holidays plus X amount of floating holidays.

              Until my current career, I always worked Christmas (and Thanksgiving).

              1. ShanShan*

                It depends on your field of work to some extent, but it’s disingenuous to pretend the situation K describes isn’t incredibly common in the US.

            2. Brooklyn*

              If your argument is “we should not have compulsory days off and give everyone those days as PTO,” I agree with you completely.

              If your argument is “religious people should be able to take more days off than non-religious people,” I think you’re missing the point. Being religious is a choice. One that should be neither punished or rewarded. Your employer has absolutely no business knowing what religion you are, how often you attend services, or what you do in your off work time. Any system that rewards people for being religious with extra time off would be doing exactly that.

              1. Aerin*

                I am down for “we should not have compulsory days off.” I would much rather be working on those holidays I don’t celebrate, because otherwise I’m just sitting home bored because everything else is bloody closed.

              2. amoeba*

                You can also have secular compulsory days off! I get why companies want to sometimes close for the whole day for everybody – at least for us with labs, that saves a lot of energy and heating cost. Also, it’s nice to know everybody else isn’t working either, so no new emails will await you, no need to worry about scheduling, etc.

                But it doesn’t need to be religious days, right? You can give, idk, Juneteenth and Labor Day to everybody and then floating holidays in addition to that.

                (My personal favourite would still be having all holidays from all religions any employee follows as days off, but I guess that’s unfortunately pretty unrealistic…)

            3. Me...Just Me*

              The week between Christmas and New Year’s is NOT some sort of “christian holiday”. The one holiday that christians uniformly get off is Christmas (but not in every job, obviously – but it’s a federal holiday). All the others are hit or miss. I have to schedule around every other Holy Day of Obligation as a Catholic christian. Sunday mass is also obligatory.

              Thus, unlimited PTO would probably be the best bet. Even the needs of christians aren’t being met — let alone those of other faiths (or with no faith).

          2. Beth*

            Exactly, why should someone get a bonus for having lots of religious obligations while people who for example spend their days off caring for elderly parents have to use more time

          3. Anon nj*

            I think there’s a fine line your missing. at my husband’s first job he got 10 days a yr that first year he had over 10 days he needed to take for Jewish holidays which meant no traveling to visit family and no time to take to do something that wasn’t going to synagogue. that meant he didn’t get a real vacation. not asking for those days as free bees just for Jews but suggesting it’s 10 days of vacation when that’s all you might get paid is laughable

            1. JM60*

              I think the main problem there is that 10 days off per year is a joke. IMO, double that would be a standard minimum acceptable vacation amount.

          4. Marine (not a Marine)*

            I spend most of my PTO having to take care of my kids if they’re sick or their childcare falls through – it is not fun, restful, nor rejuvenating!

        3. Rose*

          Ok but when the company closes for Christmas, I’m taking no religious vacation days and eating Chinese food. They idea is that everyone gets the same amount of vacation and everyone gets their holidays off.

      2. ina*

        Yes, but this would be the case for every religion as well. The LW asked about what is equitable. An observant person in every religion, in every sect of that religion, will not be satisfied with just two days.

        1. AnotherSarah*

          Actually I’m not sure that’s true. Different religions have different numbers of holidays and rules around them. Floating makes sense but as was said above, it would need to be more days.

          1. ina*

            If you look at an Ethiopian Orthodox liturgical calendar, there are already six religious holidays that the Ethiopian government itself has off officially because they’re big ones. This doesn’t begin to cover the 9 major feasts as well as the holidays centered around Mary (like 5 or 6 more) and then the 9 minor feasts. And there are more — a lot more, you can look up a calendar. As excessive as it may seem, these are sincerely held beliefs (very, very sincerely held in my experience).

            Even Ethiopian Jews have an extra holiday (Sigd) not practiced by other Jewish groups but is equally important to them.

            No one will be satisfied but if you give people the major ones, they will be.

            1. Pop Aficionado*

              Sigd is now actually a public holiday in Israel, since 2008. The country doesn’t shut down the way it does on, say, Rosh HaShanah, but employees are entitled to paid leave to observe Sigd. And while most non-Ethiopian Jews don’t observe it, the Ethiopian Jewish community’s leadership has said that they would like us to embrace it as one of our own holidays.

              Maybe a little off-topic, but I thought it was relevant.

      3. Bob-White of the Glen*

        We get Christmas off and that’s our only religious holiday (I am not counting Thanksgiving and the day after as religious as Jews and others celebrate it.) What other Christians holidays in the private sector (I’m public) do people get off?

        1. Panicked*

          I’ve had Good Friday and Easter Monday off in the past; those are really the only other mainstream Christian holidays I can think of.

          1. wanda*

            That’s really location-dependent. Where I grew up in the Northeast, we got Good Friday, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur off as school holidays. In California, none of those days are holidays either in my son’s school or at the university where I work.

        2. Chief Bottle Washer*

          My company used to have Good Friday as a paid holiday, but we made that a floating holiday a few years ago, which I think was a step forward.

          1. Marianne*

            Yeah I work in finance and I think the Stock Market is closed on Good Friday so teams that follow the stock market schedule get it off. But that’s the only situation I’ve seen on my industry where Good Friday is a holiday.

        3. Frank Doyle*

          Did you miss Alison’s two requests for people who celebrate Christmas to sit back and let other people talk? You must have done, otherwise your Catholic guilt would probably start to kick in! (Not trying to be mean, just . . . you know. C’mon.)

          1. Bob-White of the Glen*

            Yep. But I’m ex-Catholic and currently agnostic and face a lot of discrimination for it, especially when I lived in the Midwest. But it is true that I gear towards the Christian holidays even with my beliefs, and will now drop out of the conversation.

          2. Ann O'Nemity*

            If we’re trying to be equitable, I do think it’s worth noting what’s the norm for Christian holidays.

            In my experience, I’ve only gotten one single Christian holiday off of work (Christmas). The rest are federal holidays like Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, and Labor Day.

            Do Christians routinely have to take PTO for other holidays?

            1. ShanShan*

              Well, Easter is on Sunday, and people in the US often don’t work on Sundays (an extension of the same issue, really), so it comes up less often. Places I’ve worked that are open on Sundays DO generally close for Easter, though.

            2. Gren beans*

              so Christianity is an extremely fractured religion – Mormons, Protestants, Catholics and a lot of different Orthodox churches, Mennonites, Quakers, and Jehovah’s Witnesses… all Christian, ranging from “celebrating any holiday is against our beliefs” to “we have Saint Days and Holy Days of obligation that are quite important,” and everything in between.

              generally, you can assume Christmas and Easter are important holidays to most (but not quite all) sects. Other mileage varies…a lot.

            3. Chirpy*

              I have to take PTO for Christmas Eve every year, as it’s when my actual church services are. It’s often a problem.

              While we’re closed on Easter Sunday, it’s not paid, (since it’s not a federal holiday like Christmas), so if it’s your weekend to work, you lose a day of pay whether you celebrate or not. I’d also have to use PTO if I went to Good Friday services, or any other religious holiday. Ash Wednesday/ Lent are usually ok for me as I’m not scheduled in the evenings when services are, but it could require schedule changes for some coworkers. Also, general Sunday attendance is limited by the schedule requirement of working every other weekend.

            4. Azure Jane Lunatic*

              Many work weeks are centered around Sunday as a mandatory day off. Typical accommodations for Christians who wish to not work Sundays include:
              * business is straight up closed on Sunday, no special action needed
              * Sunday morning hours might start later, allowing someone to go to services early and still get to work on time without asking for a schedule change, or end earlier which would allow someone to go to evening services or have a traditional Sunday meal with their family
              * Shift differential pay for anyone who is assigned to work Sunday or who signs up to work Sunday
              * Asking for Sundays off is generally seen as a reasonable request and does not tend to get religiously focused pushback, even if the business can’t grant the request to that worker at that time

        4. mb*

          I think the problem becomes more difficult in the US which isn’t super strict on businesses closing on holidays such as Thanksgiving and Good Friday. In Canada, everything is closed, including retail, on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Good Friday as well as Easter Sunday (with a few small exceptions). Also, you are required to give people time off for religious holidays – but you are not required to pay them. I think most decent employers pay them anyway – as long as it’s not something like 20 days of holidays. As someone who celebrates Christmas on January 7th, I think it’s nice to be able to celebrate your own holidays. Perhaps just increasing the number of “personal days” to accommodate a certain amount of religious holidays would work.

          1. Kendall^2*

            There are 13 days on the Jewish calendar with complete work restrictions (ie I must take as vacation if they aren’t on the weekend), and a number of other days that have fewer work restrictions or are ‘minor’ holidays (like Purim) that have no restrictions, but it might be nice to take the day off instead of working. Not to mention other fast days (four minor, one major), which might be convenient to take off, especially if one does not fast well. So, yeah, depending on the person, it could easily add up to 20, given that the minimum is 13 days with work restrictions. (This year, the fall holidays line up with the weekend, so instead of taking 7 days off, I only need to take 1.)

      4. Gns*

        2 days wouldn’t cover all religious holidays for anyone of any faith. Other than Christmas and that is as much a secular non religious day off as it is religeous. I don’t get any other important holiday off unless I use vacation and I have worked with companies that even Christmas wasn’t a given.

        1. Rachel*

          Just want to point out that Christmas is very much a religious day off. Regardless of whether Christian folks go to church, give presents, eat with family, or any combination of that, it’s a Christian holiday. For me (I’m Jewish), it’s simply December 25th. Because Christianity is the majority religion in the US and Christmas has become so commercialized, it can often seem like a cultural/secular holiday rather than a religious one. But even if one is not a practicing Christian, celebrating Christmas – the birth of Jesus – in any way makes it, by definition, religious.

          1. Gren beans*

            that’s like saying you have to be religious to be Jewish, or to celebrate a Jewish holiday.

            you can have a cultural celebration of Christmas and not be religious. I don’t think Christmas is a secular holiday, but it absolutely can be celebrated (individually) in a secular/cultural way.

    2. Excel Jedi*

      This isn’t really equitable – in practice, Christians (and atheists) get to use those for their or their families’ birthdays while it doesn’t adequately cover holidays for non-Christian religious folks. I used to have 2 floating holidays, and I always used them for my and my partner’s birthdays because I really didn’t have anything else to use them on.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I worked for an employer that took away Good Friday as a paid holiday and gave everyone 2 floating holidays. So I wouldn’t across-the-board say its inequitable.

        1. LCH*

          I have never worked somewhere with Good Friday as a holiday so that seems like a place that already skewed very heavily Christian.

          1. A Simple Narwhal*

            I work at a financial institution and we get Good Friday off because the stock market is closed that day, I believe other financial companies operate similarly.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              I worked at a Jesuit university that gave good friday and easter monday off as well. But when the institute is overtly religious the rules are different. Although for finance it makes sense to have days off when the stock market is off.

            2. Ace in the Hole*

              I’ve run into similar things in other jobs. For example I worked at a sandwich shop that closed on certain (mostly Christian) holidays… because the bakery that supplied our bread was closed those days. No bread, no sandwiches.

              Although in that particular case nobody got paid on days we were closed. So it was equitable, I guess, just equitably awful for everyone.

            3. Siege*

              And I have never once had Good Friday off in any job I’ve ever had, but I live in the PNW, which is less culturally religious than the Northeast.

          2. amoeba*

            I mean, I guess we’re talking only US here, but here (European country) it is a national holiday, even though we’re generally much more secular than the US!

            (We don’t really have that debate, anyway, because holidays are universal for the whole state – so, sure, they might still be unfairly distributed, but there’s nothing employers could do about it.)

            1. Irish Teacher*

              In Ireland, somewhat oddly, it’s not a national holiday (I say “somewhat oddly” because it is in countries that would be more secular than us in many other ways), but it is very common for workplaces to give it anyway.

            2. Lizz*

              Sure there is: also close on Diwali, Eid and Yom Kippur. If you’re talking about Germany, in Brandenburg Christians don’t have to use PTO days for Christmas, 2nd day Christmas, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, White Monday, Ascention Day or All Saints Day.
              I, meanwhile, do have to use it for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Shavuot, Sukkot, and Pesach.
              Just because it’s not the employer’s choice of default setup doesn’t mean it’s equitable!

          3. Trout 'Waver*

            If the problem is that it is inequitable to grant floating holidays on top of also giving Christians religious holidays off, it seems like the ideal solution is to convert Christian holidays to floating holidays at a 1:2 ratio.

          4. Csethiro Ceredin*

            We usually close on Easter Monday (not a stat here) and Boxing Day as the government agencies we partner with are closed. Same now for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation (Canada).

            1. Chinookwind*

              Those are all Federal rules. Us Albertans get to work Easter Monday, Boxing Day, and National Day of T&R and, if July 1st and New Year’s Day fall on a Saturday, there is no floating stat. to move to the Friday or Monday (so we worked two extra days this year for the same annual salary).

              And I have to point out that lumping in Christmas and Easter as “all Christian holidays” is technically wrong. I have been lucky to not have to work Good Friday but, when I have been asked by this employer to do so, I had to pull the “religion card” to turn it down (and did so on behalf of half of her employees who were too worried about losing their jobs if they spoke up but also wanted to go to the multiple different church services over the 3 days leading up to Easter).
              As well, Easter is off only because it falls on a Sunday and most business hours Monday to Friday – a true holiday that falls on a Sunday, according to Canadian (and Alberta) labour law, gets recognized with a day off on the Monday, which would mean the Easter Monday would be automatically off. (Any stat landing on Saturday do not necessarily “float” to the Friday in Alberta but they do federally).

              I have been someone who has had to take vacation time to attend Catholic religious services and it sucks but I am relieved that it shouldn’t affect my job prospects.

              Giving enough time off to cover religious holidays AND prioritizing those taking it for religious reasons when there are conflicts would be ideal. The latter is important so that those that have religious observances when others want to vacation don’t have to risk missing out on a non-moveable day of obligation.

              1. Former GoAer*

                That is very interesting to read as when I worked for the AB provincial government we did have Easter Monday and Boxing Day off, and floating holidays (except for National Truth and Reconciliation Day). I didn’t realize it wasn’t standard… (although now that I think about it, my spouse (who works for private industry) doesn’t get Easter Monday off)

        2. Excel Jedi*

          I don’t understand? If they took away only 1 Christian holiday and gave 2 floating holidays, you still get to use 1 for Good Friday and 1 for something frivolous like a birthday. While your colleagues still only get 2 days off for their own religious holidays with no extra for frivolous days, plus (I assume) staying home not celebrating Christmas or working on Dec. 25?

            1. AMT*

              Yeah, I’m equally baffled by the reasoning behind the idea that people should get more PTO because they’re not doing anything fun with it! I mean, non-religious people have arduous mandatory tasks, too. I’m not asking for extra PTO because, say, I have committee assignments to get to or errands to run. Your compensation, which includes PTO, shouldn’t depend on just how many errands you have to run or committee assignments you have to get to.

              1. Greta*

                Seriously agree. I used 4 weeks of leave for 2 knee surgeries. My coworker went on a couple of week(s) long vacations. Would I have loved to spend 4 weeks on a beach instead of in pain on the couch? Sure, but it’s not unfair, just unlucky for me to have crappy knees.

                We have one bucket of sick and vacation time, and every holiday is floating. It’s a pretty generous amount of leave, and they are somewhat flexible on leave without pay as well. I think this has worked out pretty equitably. I can even work Christmas if I want to, and take that day some other time, either for something “fun”, or knee surgery, or if I was religious, for another religious holiday.

                1. Joielle*

                  I like this approach (all holidays are floating) because it doesn’t privilege any holidays over others, it just lets you take whichever holidays off you prefer. I work for state government so we’re required to follow the official holiday list, but I would much prefer to get those 12 days as floating holidays and be able to work on President’s Day and take Halloween off instead.

                  There’s no way to solve the problem that some people have more un-fun obligations than others, and therefore they have to use more of their time off on un-fun things. That’s just life.

                2. M*

                  Not being a Christian is not an “unlucky” situation. I’m sure you’ll be able to take your beach vacation again. Non-Christians will just have their holiest days taken out of their vacation time year after year.

              2. ShanShan*

                It’s just that Christians get extra days for that stuff: days where no one expects them to work, where they’re not missing anything, where they don’t have to make anything up when they get back.

                It’s not just the day off work: it’s that EVERYONE has that same day off, and nobody expects anything from you on that day. I don’t know how to fix that. It’s a huge cultural thing, not a workplace thing.

                1. Greta*

                  I’ve commented elsewhere on this, but at my job ALL holidays are floating. So there are many federal and religious holidays where some coworkers are working, and some are not. I think this is the most equal and equitable solution. We all get the same amount of time off to do whatever we want, and because we can all choose when to use those days, there are never really any days where we’re either all there, or all not there. I don’t celebrate Christmas, so I often work. But then it’s nice to use that day later to have a longer winter vacation to escape the dark and snow for a bit.

                2. AMT*

                  I definitely agree that this should not be the case! It’s the type of policy that favors Christians over people of other religions and non-religious people who don’t celebrate Christian holidays. I generally endorse the solution of offering all religious holidays as floating holidays *and* enforcing policies that ensure that people who take PTO for less common holidays and non-religious reasons aren’t penalized for it (e.g. that the two employees in a given office who take time off for the High Holidays aren’t treated differently in terms of coverage or expected workload during their observances than the fifty Christians taking time off for Christmas). But I agree that it’s going to take a wider cultural change to make things more equitable regardless of what individual employers do.

      2. ina*

        Yes, this is what came to mind. People who aren’t observant get to do fun stuff on those days whereas others need those days off to observe a fast or spend all day in a synagogue/ temple/church/mosque/what-have-you.

        It’s equitable in the sense they have a mechanism to celebrate their holidays, but not in the distribution of PTO purpose.

        Honestly, let’s just scramble the holidays at random so there is no religious holiday overlap and THEN implement this system. That would be equitable, but it’d also require federal government cooperation and…yeah, the only impending storm. The answer seems simple. Everyone gets one, with acknowledgement that not everyone can get everything.

        1. DontFlameMeBro*

          Removed — see rule at top. You appear to have commented on this post using 10 different user names (sock puppetry) and I am removing them all and blocking you from further comments. – Alison

        2. Gus*

          People are presumably observing religious holidays because they get some kind of satisfaction from their faith, right? Nobody is forcing them. So they are doing what they find “fun” when they attend religious observances.

          1. Golden*

            I was a little confused here too. I have a religious, non-Christian coworker that seems to LOVE fasting. The way he talks about it makes it sound like it’s extremely fulfilling and even “fun” to him. Should he get less PTO than a similarly observant person that struggles with their fast?

        3. Gerry Kaey*

          that is quite literally the choice that religious people make by practicing religion. the idea that practicing religion is somehow different/more valuable/more worthy of recognition than any other way of spending non-work time is so bizarre to me. if you don’t enjoy practicing your religion… don’t do it??

          1. Greta*

            Agreed. One of my coworkers takes PTO to run marathons. I’m not a runner, so that sounds horrible to spend a PTO day on torturing herself, but hey, whatever people choose to do on their PTO day is their choice. Sitting in mass, fasting, running a marathon, baking, hiking, petting their cats…. shouldn’t matter.

            1. Fish*

              I heard of a police officer who was fired for taking time off to enter competitions. He always used PTO, but the article didn’t say what his employer’s issue was with this.

              He was the Australia/New Zealand champion Elvis Presley impersonator.

          2. ShanShan*

            “What if you just decided not to be Jewish? The problem would be solved!”

            It’s wild that nobody’s thought of that before.

            1. Quite anon*

              To me, the heart of the problem is, if you’re following ANY religion which requires substantial sacrifices from you in order to remain a participating member of the faith, and you’re getting absolutely no satisfaction out of participating in said ceremonies, or from the sense of community fostered by attending with like minded people…

              Either you feel, strongly, that this is something you should be doing with your time, or you do not. Ample PTO should be provided for everyone, to use as they see fit, but assuming there are enough PTO hours for you to attend all required ceremonies, with plenty more on top for anything else you might want to do, it is really not your coworker’s problem if you get no satisfaction from participating in ceremonies which are integral to your faith.

              1. ShanShan*

                But we are talking about potential solutions to this problem. That was the question Allison asked.

                “Just suck it up — it’s not my problem” is not a solution. We’re already doing that.

                1. JM60*

                  I think the solution is to give people ample paid time off, and as much flexibility as practical to be able to use that time off on key particular dates of significance. Beyond that, I think the solution somewhat is “suck it up” in the sense that time is limited, and if you think you need to spend time on religious activities, you need to spend your time on religious activities. You shouldn’t get extra time just because you spend time on religious activities, while someone else might be using that time watching Netflix.

                  I think it becomes clearer if you think about the analogous issue of spending money rather than time. Time and money are both limited resources that we spend. Some people believe that they have a religious obligation to spend 10% of their money on religion. However, most of us would agree that that’s not a valid reason for an employer to pay them more than someone who doesn’t share their religious beliefs. Instead, it should be on the employer to pay well, and on the employee to “suck it up” and pay from that finite amount.

              2. ShanShan*

                Okay, but this is supposed to be a post about finding solutions. “Just suck it up, because nobody cares” is not a solution. I’m already doing that. I’m only talking about other options because someone literally asked me.

      3. Robin*

        Maybe someone’s experience is different, but that’s how I’ve always felt as well. In practice, it never seemed that difference than giving people 2 extra days of PTO which is nice but doesn’t address the issue

      4. mb*

        Yes, Christians and atheists get to use them for other things – but being religiously observant is a choice. If a Christian spends all day Sunday praying – they don’t then get Monday off so that they can have a full 2 days ‘off’. You’re treating religious holidays like it’s another job – which I’m sure it can feel like it sometimes but it’s still time off from your work – what you choose to use it for is your choice.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      It seems like this only works if you make ALL holidays floating holidays, i.e., the office is open (or people can work from home) on New Year’s, Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day, etc., and everyone gets, say, 6 extra days of PTO or 6 floating holidays. (Personally, I never saw the need to have so many separate categories of leave, but that’s just me.)

      I know this doesn’t work for every business, but it seems like having specific days where everyone is assumed to want off is part of the problem. No reason to keep some but make others flexible, IMO, when 100% of the employees can use their day for Christmas, if they want, even the non-Christians.

      1. bamcheeks*

        But “office is open” inevitably means that some people lose the ability NOT to work, in order to enable other people to work– security and estates staff in the case of physical offices, IT and infrastructure staff in the case of people working from home. So whether or not that is equitable probably depends on the size of your staff and whether it’s possible for people who don’t mind working those days to provide sufficient coverage, or whether you’d created a situation where people in non-coverage roles have equity and flexibility at the expense of people in coverage roles.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          I commented below–my employer allows working from home or office on holidays, and I don’t think it requires anyone else to work. We unlock our own offices, without security there, and no one comes in to clean the office until after the holiday. Whether we work from home or the office, we know that IT won’t be available on holidays, so we’re on our own for technology stuff.

          I’m not saying it works for every industry/company/role, but for a lot of organizations, it’s totally possible for individual employees to work for a day or two without additional infrastructure.

          1. Greta*

            This is how my job is as well. All of our holidays are floating, so it’s common for some of us to be working, but others taking the day off. We’re lucky in that we can get into our building whenever we need to, or work from home. We don’t really have support staff (IT, etc.). If you have a question for a coworker who took that holiday off, then oh well, have to wait for your answer until tomorrow. But nothing is a life-and-death emergency at my workplace, so it usually can wait until tomorrow.

            I like working the holidays where most of my coworkers took the day off. I can get focused work done without emails and IMs and meetings. I often work Christmas because of this. It’s great.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        I personally think everyone (aside from emergency or necessary services) should get Labor Day off.

        I work for a state government. In addition to our set holidays (Christmas Eve and Christmas are the only religious ones), we get 36 hours of floating holidays. The main difference between that and vacation time, is that they can’t be rolled over.

        1. time_ebbs*

          I definitely think it is important to have the set/floating holidays separate from PTO/sick leave. People get (rightfully) annoyed when you have to use PTO (or take the day unpaid) on days the office is closed for a holiday.

      3. zinzarin*

        I don’t think the office needs to be *open* on Christmas; there are market reasons to remain closed that day (it being a federal holiday in the US is enough for that). But the equitable solution is definitely to make people use PTO/Floating holidays if they want to be *paid* for that mandatory day off (which is already often the case for the non-Christmas days when a business closes between Christmas and New Years; i.e. the structure is already in place to implement this).

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I don’t see how “you must take Christmas off, and you must use your PTO for it or get your pay docked” is any fairer. Assuming that no one wants their pay docked, everyone (Christian and non-Christian) will still be forced to take a Christian religious holiday off.

          That’s having Christmas as a religious holiday with extra steps.

          1. zinzarin*

            It’s equally as fair as “we’re closed between Christmas and New Years, and you have to use PTO if you want to be paid for any of those days,” which is quite common in certain industries in the US (manufacturing is my experience, but I know there are others).

      4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        That’s mostly how my employer does it, and it (generally) works for us because we’re a hospital system, so many working groups are either open 24/7 or fully remote (my team). Our holidays are lumped into our PTO, and people on my team can either take them off (which requires the same PTO request submitted for approval that any other day off would) or work on them.

        In my division, we don’t do holiday pay for people who choose to work on the holidays, I’m not sure whether the 24/7 patient care areas do or not. Personally I always take off July 4th and Thanksgiving because I travel at those times, but generally I work on Labor Day, Christmas, Memorial Day and … whatever the sixth one is. New Year’s. That’s almost a full vacation that I can put together at another point in the year :)

      5. Ace in the Hole*

        Eh, I would separate out religious holidays from non-religious holidays. Things like Labor Day and Independence Day apply equally to every religion… individuals may or may not want to celebrate, some people might prefer to have taken a different day off, but it’s not unfairly advantaging one faith over others.

    4. Yet another person.*

      We only get one, but I agree that floating holidays are the way to go. They are easy to use and require no extra explanations. Allows you to keep your private life/ religious observations separate from work if that’s what you prefer to do.

      1. LisTF*

        My job gives 5 “diversity days” annually in addition to the federal holidays. Which is nice because you don’t have to immediately burn PTO if you have a religious or cultural holiday, and you don’t have to justify it at all. So you could use it for Holi or an Eid or a mental health day or screaming into the void, whatever your heart desires. It’s also especially nice for families such as my own which is 2 faiths and so we have “extra” holidays we observe. It also helps our PTO is on the high end of average for the field and they actually encourage you to use it.

        1. Yellow cake*

          Who determines which cultures qualify for such days?

          If it is self-defined just offer the additional leave. If you have a list of acceptable and unacceptable expressions of diversity then someone loses. Always.

          I saw this in a past workplace. Those who had right and proper cultures/families/religions etc could access all this bonus leave. The rest had to take unpaid.

          Personally my solution is for companies to have a sufficiently large bucket of paid leave. Potentially split into an accruing bucket and a non-accruing bucket. Some would use that additional leave for cultural or religious events. Others for bereavement or disasters. Some for caring or additional personal sick leave when they exhaust their accruing bucket. No lists of acceptable religions or acceptable events. No lists of approved family structures. No declaration of which disasters meet the criteria.

          For jobs where there are really clear individual outputs you can review you’ll see if someone is meeting targets or not. For jobs where that isn’t the case – well expect staff to be out for the complete number of days you allow off each year. Roster accordingly.

          Equitable is always inequitable when it comes to leave. You can see here – proposals from some to ensure they are treated as what they see as equitable are received as inequitable treatment by others. It’s all in the perspective. Equality is my preference – because equity in compensation is an impossible goal.

    5. Name Anxiety*

      My partner’s organization (almost entirely remote if that’s relevant), doesn’t have any all office closure days/federal holidays, and instead gives the staff 12 floating holidays on top of their PTO. It does mean that you have to plan to take off work for 3-day-weekends like Labor Day and Memorial Day, but also that you can just skip Christmas Day or Thanksgiving or New Years Day or whatever and apply those elsewhere.

      1. Kaiko*

        I think this is the way to go. There have to be clear protocols around how to book time off for popular holidays (first come, first served? rotations? seniority?), but having a large bucket of holiday days that can be applied liberally according to staff’s own priorities, is pretty great.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          Or really, not have a minimum number of staff on those days since they are generally accepted to be days to not work. Those that do can just work independently.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            That doesn’t work in many settings. A lot of workplaces need a minimum number of people present to do anything.

      2. amoeba*

        I do think that’s relevant – pretty sure people in my field would be reluctant to do that because actually closing the site on the days saves them a lot of money in electricity etc.! (We have labs…)

      3. darlingpants*

        My partner’s former office closed for the week of (American) Thanksgiving, but had all other holidays as floating/wrapped into their PTO allotment.

      4. fish*

        Right. My office has floating holidays but also Christmas off, so in practice the Christians still get an extra vacation day.

        1. Pescadero*


          Christians: 2 floating holidays + Christmas = 3 vacation days
          Non-Christians: 2 floating holidays + Christmas = 3 vacation days

          A day off is a day off – whether you celebrate that holiday or not.

          1. fish*

            NO. With my vacation days, I can schedule them when I want and use them for what I want. Having to arbitrarily take time off on Dec. 25 (when many things are closed! When it’s winter!) is not that.

            1. Green beans*

              but that’s true for any federal/bank holiday. you get some days off because they are the days your company gets off. You still get the same number of days off.

      5. Turquoisecow*

        My company used to close for President’s Day. A number of people asked for them to be open because they didn’t want the day off and would rather have a different day. A few others with kids who get the day off from school said they would rather have the day off so they didn’t have to use PTO or arrange for childcare.

        The company made it into a floating holiday – you could either take that day without using your PTO, or you could work it and have any other day you wanted off without using PTO.

        So the easiest answer to conflicting holidays, or people who would rather work on a holiday they don’t celebrate, is to come up with an equitable number of floating holidays. I think most observers of various religions would like more than two, but maybe the actual number could be determined by a survey of employees and how many holidays they would like to have.

        FWIW, the only religious holiday I’ve ever gotten off at four companies in the last 20 years has been Christmas. I think the issue is less that Christians are necessarily preferred in terms of holidays and more that there are fewer religious holidays for most mainstream Christians. (Unless it’s a 7-day operation, Easter is always a Sunday, so I’ve never gotten that off, specially, and we naturally do get Sundays off when Christians would be attending church, but we also get Saturdays off so people could attend synagogue.)

    6. This Old House*

      But then people who celebrate Christmas often end up with the equivalent of 2 extra vacation/personal days – you still have the same issue of equity, you’re just calling those extra days “floating holidays” instead of “vacation days.”

    7. Corporate Worker Bee*

      The huge US based but global company my husband works for does this. They receive the 6 regular major US holidays off and then have several floating holidays separate from PTO to cover other religious and or regional holidays employees need. They used to get all the regular banking holidays and switched to this instead awhile ago. Same number of holidays, but used for how each employee wants. I believe employees can request to switch the 6 standard days to others as well if they want.

    8. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      My mom’s company gave a floating holiday that they called “religious holiday” to be used at employee’s choice. Oddly progressive for the 1980s, I think.

    9. Sloanicota*

      I’m fortunate to work remotely, but for any office that offers WFH flexibility I think the number of floating days should be *all* the typical Federal holidays plus 3 (granted, I live in a region where most people get all the Federal holidays off – I do recall this not being the case when I used to live in the Midwest). If people want to work on Columbus/Indigenous People’s Day or President’s Day and swap it for Eid or Yom Kippur, let them. I say the WFH is important because I wouldn’t want the support staff in the office to have to be available all days – but there may be better solutions I’m not thinking of for that.

    10. Salsa Your Face*

      My old company gave everyone floating holidays too, except we Jews used them for the high holidays and everyone else just used them like vacation days. It effectively increased everyone’s PTO balance by two days, which was nice but didn’t solve the issue.

    11. Media Monkey*

      my last company did similar. The company gave everyone 2 of the normal 3 working days between christmas and new year off (we’re in the uk so xmas day and boxing day are holidays so even if they fall on the weekend, time is given off in lieu). you are able to swap those 2 days for other religious holidays you might prefer to celebrate. total days off are 25 plus the additional 2 free days which tends to give most people the possibility of celebrating the days they want – i don’t think we ever had too many people off at the same time (but i guess we’d have handled that as we normally would by ensuring someone who was in the office would cover urgent requests.

    12. PlainJane*

      We use float holidays for all Monday holidays on branches that are open Tues-Friday. I end up accumulating a lot of float time that way! But yeah, I’m not sure how that would work with the Jewish holiday calendar, because the simple fact is that most places are open on the High Holidays outside Israel. Maybe make all religious holidays into float-able time? So if you take those holidays, that would be your holiday day, but if you don’t, you can float it? Then it would be the same for Christian holidays (add Ash Wednesday, Pentecost, etc) or Muslim holidays. That way, people who celebrate the holiday can take it as holiday time, but people who don’t won’t get that, “Grr, why am I covering when so-and-so has a holiday I don’t get?” feeling, because they’ll get a float holiday.

    13. LCKM*

      My company has floating holidays as well (though we get 4) and they do an ok-ish job of also including Christian holidays in the list so it feels more even – ie there’s an option for Passover, one for Eid and one for Good Friday. We do all have Christmas off as a firm holiday but it’s a law firm and a lot of people work on holidays, so people try to be respectful of which holiday you celebrate (so I got called in on Christmas, but not on the first night of Hanukkah which I celebrate). It’s not perfect but it does make things feel more even and leaves it up to individuals to determine their own religious dates – for example, someone is Jain and took off for a holiday that wasn’t specified on the list but they could still use it as their holiday). Everyone gets the same time off at the end of the day and it treats people like adults about it

    14. Observer*

      A prior company I worked for granted two “Floating Holiday” days to be used at the employee’s discretion. These were independent of PTO, everyone got 2 at the beginning of the year regardless of seniority.

      If you are serious about that, it has to be more than 2 days. This coming calendar year (2024) there are 12 days that Orthodox Jews are going to have to take off. I get that an employer might not be able to accommodate ALL of that, but 2 days comes off as not even trying.

    15. Kayem*

      My employer does floating holidays, but does not limit those holidays to being specific religions. They also use the word “holiday” in a very broad sense, so it could be everything from a religious holiday to cultural holiday to standing in line all day for a game release.

      The biggest issue at first was that there wasn’t enough available (two days), especially given that Christian holidays were mandatory paid holidays. So while we all got the same number of holidays, the Christians didn’t have to dip into their floating holidays for theirs.

      At some point, it all changed so now we get five floating holidays and the office no longer closes for Christian holidays except for Christmas eve and day. Those two days are considered flex holidays; employees can choose to take one of both of those days off and substitute a different day off outside that doesn’t count against their PTO or floating holidays (we’re 99% remote so it doesn’t matter if the offices are open). So theoretically, everyone now has seven floating holidays to use as needed.

      It’s worked really well, save a small number of people furious that the Monday after Easter was no longer a paid holiday. Which is honestly, ridiculous. We wound up with MORE paid days available to use than we had before. They’re just mad because now they have to dip into their floating holiday bank like the rest of us have had to do all these years before the change.

      Part of the reason this works so well is that we all are responsible for charging our own leave balances. So we can tell our supervisors as much or little as we like when we request a day off; only payroll sees which bank it was charged to. For those of us who are used to being skittish about asking for certain holidays off, it’s a welcome relief.

    16. Mariemac*

      My old workplace converted all holiday time into choice days, so basically 13 floating holidays. It takes a bit of logistics to make sure there’s coverage where you need it or if there’s enough critical mass to close the office that day, but it seemed to work out well. People used it for religious holidays or days that were important to them. We just started it but it seems like it’s working well.

  4. AnotherSarah*

    No idea on how to allocate, but it seems important to remind people in positions of power within companies, who celebrate Christmas, Jan 1, Easter that these days are given off automatically for most workers. Somehow when I point out that my four days off in fall are = to those holidays, they back off the complaints. (Sometimes.)

    1. Sloanicota*

      I admit I had a blind spot and forgot for a moment that Sundays are typically an automatic day off, so most workers in my field will never be working the big Christian holidays.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Yeah, it just means you’re supposed to go to mass on the day. My dad used to make us go to those, they were always in the evening.

            1. JM60*

              Additionally, you’re allowed to fulfill your “go to mass” obligation for holy days by attending an evening vigil mass the night before. When I was Catholic, there was a period of my life in which my family went to mass almost every day. However, we fulfilled our Christmas religious obligation by going to mass on Christmas Eve, and then Christmas day was the only day of the year that we didn’t go to mass.

      1. Anax*

        It’s not religious (pretty pointedly, given history!), but it’s a major cultural holiday for Russians – equivalent to secular Christmas in the US.

        I feel like there should be some leeway for major cultural celebrations, though I’m not sure how that should be done. It’s not quite the same as religious need, but it’s also reflective of the cultural hegemony, you know?

        My partner is Russian-American, and getting New Year’s off has been a headache at times. I think we all know at this point that it sucks to work on Thanksgiving when you would otherwise be having a big family gathering, and this is similar; his family doesn’t do Christmas or Thanksgiving, New Year’s is the big holiday.

        (Personally, I’m pagan so I’m resigned to working on solstices and equinoxes.)

        1. I Have RBF*

          (Personally, I’m pagan so I’m resigned to working on solstices and equinoxes.)


          Yes, theoretically I could ask for the 8 generic pagan holidays off. But then I’d have to have the religion conversation if people put together the pattern. I might do it at my current company, but I’m still nervous about it. I don’t want to end up on someone’s “prayer list” because of the holidays I celebrate. (Yes, it has happened before.)

          1. Anax*

            Yeah, and even if they’re pretty accepting, it’s both on the ‘weird/unusual’ side so there’s a lot of explaining, and on the ‘well, why do you need those days off, aren’t you just making it up as you go?’

            Much easier to just avoid the conversation.

        2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          Also pagan, and it feels so hard to gather my family and friends for the Solstices because even if I could get the day off (back when I was still working), my partner’s work might not understand that my partner needs the day because of my observance. Let alone the workplaces of all the other people I would like to see on that day.

          (My dad’s side of the family is some variety of solar crypto-Pagan; apparently it is not universal to have your biggest parties on the Solstices even if there’s not a religious ceremony to go along with it. It doesn’t feel like I’ve celebrated the season properly if there hasn’t been a gathering that goes late into the night on or around the day of, even if I do have a private religious observance.)

      2. Ben Maryam*

        I learned in my traditional Jewish Hebrew school that New Years Day in part celebrates the 8th day after baby Jesus’ birth – His naming and ritual circumcision, as may be recorded in the New Testament (I have read it but can’t confirm)

        1. Chirpy*

          I’ve never heard of that being celebrated as part of New Year’s. Epiphany (Jan 6) is definitely more common to roll that into (it’s the arrival of the Magi/Wise Men, some denominations/ cultures do their main gift giving on Epiphany instead of Christmas Day.)

        2. Yellow cake*

          I have never heard of this. I suspect that is not a common Christian holiday in the major Christian denominations in my country.

          It is also important to remember that not all Christian denominations celebrate their holy days on the same physical days. Federal mandated holidays, and typical shut downs, align with the major holidays of the more numerous/influential groups probably 50+ years ago.

          Our longest holidays are called “Christmas holidays” but that’s not a religious obligation of the leading Christian denominations at the time they were established – it was to match the harvest and the need for workers (kids especially).

    1. AGS*

      This is what my company does – if you need a day off for religious observance, you get the day off and it’s fully paid and not charged to PTO.

    2. Mathilde*

      Is this fair, though, if you are an atheist, or if a religion has more holidays than another ? It seems that in the end, you would end with people getting less than others based on their religious (non) affiliation.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        This made me think of medical accommodations…people get flexibility when they have medical needs. It is the cost of doing business. Employees can get special equipment, flexible hours or FMLA. And I remembered FMLA is unpaid. So medical accommodation requires time off, but you don’t get paid. And I’m back to square one. I feel like King Pippen.

        1. orchivist*

          in my state at least FMLA is paid at I think 80% of your usual salary. not as good as unrestricted time off at 100% but you’re not completely without income

          1. Marianne*

            What state is that?
            FMLA is actually a Federal law that was created to provide job protection – it simply mandates that if your employer has more than a certain number of employees and an employee has worked at least 12 months, that employee is entitled to take up to 12 weeks off a year for medical leave or care of a family member and the employer must have their job or an equivalent job waiting when they return. Pay is covered either by disability insurance or benefits or sick pay or vacation/PTO or other benefits the employer provides or not at all.
            A few states have implemented paid disability or family leave programs. These are state specific and thus not FMLA, which is federal.

        2. Kate*

          Right. Exactly. People are human and have different needs. It’s not unfair to people who can use stairs that elevators exist for those who need them. An atheist’s concern should be do they have the pay and benefits they need to flourish, not that someone else gets religious holidays off. I feel like my brain is leaking out of my ears with some of this “what religion gets the biggest cookie?!?!” preschool stuff here.

          1. Pescadero*

            I don’t think the problem is WHICH religion gets the big cookie.

            It’s “why should religion entitle someone to anything more than non-religion”.

            Your religious holiday should be no more, or less, important to be accommodated than someone elses desire to take a day off to binge watch Matlock.

            1. AMT*

              I agree. This is not about “who gets the biggest cookie?” but “why does practicing a religion entitle you to a second cookie?” and “why should my employer care or even know what I’m doing with my cookie?” My non-work life is no less important than someone’s religious observances, and it’s strange that, say, volunteering for a cause that’s just as important to me as religion is important to the religious is somehow not as important or “obligatory” to me. We should all have the same time off to pursue activities that are meaningful to us, whether or not they fall in the somewhat arbitrary category of “spiritual.”

      2. Sloanicota*

        I always think this is a tough spot. If you are religiously observant, a day spent fasting or in prayer isn’t exactly the same as a fun day off, so I’m a bit leery of saying everybody should get the same number of free days as whoever needs the most for religious observance. And I say this as someone who isn’t particularly observant and would love more free days to like, play in the park or go see a movie myself.

        1. Worldwalker*

          This brings up the problem of determining whether someone is religious “enough.” I know Jews who would indeed spend the days in religious observance, and others who haven’t seen the inside of a synagogue since they moved out of home, and who would probably go to the beach. Should the former have to use PTO and thus get fewer actual days of vacation than a neutral co-worker? Should the latter get time off for religious holidays that they don’t actually observe, and thus get more days of actual vacation?

          And what about people with differing religious obligations: let’s say one religion has 5 days of obligation throughout the year, while another has 10? What if it’s different sects within the same religion? What if there are greater obligations for some people in the same sect than others?

          This is a problem which is not amenable to easy or simple solutions.

          1. Sloanicota*

            I think that’s why the “floating holiday” or other swap day is my preferred way to handle it. If a coworker cares enough about the holiday that they’re willing to work another day to compensate, great. It doesn’t matter if they go to the beach or not in that case. I do recall early in my career a coworker occasionally worked Sundays on the weeks they were going to take midweek religious holidays. Sundays were not meaningful to their religion so they were happy to do so. It has to be the right kind of office/work for this to make sense, but it worked well for us.

          2. Olive*

            My family is atheist *and* Jewish *and* American. We celebrate secular Christmas. We don’t celebrate Easter. We sometimes celebrate Jewish holidays with family members because of cultural significance and because we’re a part of the family even though we aren’t observant. But only sometimes. Which package of holidays should we get?

            1. Olive*

              Sorry, I missed the thing about only wanting commenters who don’t celebrate Christmas, but I still think it’s relevant that hyphenated Americans might celebrate a mish-mash of holidays.

          3. workermouse*

            Interestingly in Judaism, not working is something you are unequivocally obligated to on most holidays, and attending synagogue is comparatively much more optional. In Judaism, rest is its own value, not something you do to make space for other activities.

          4. Spencer Hastings*

            “I know Jews who would indeed spend the days in religious observance, and others who haven’t seen the inside of a synagogue since they moved out of home, and who would probably go to the beach.”

            Speaking as someone who falls squarely into the latter category, this is why I wouldn’t ask for a religious accommodation at all and would just…go to work on Rosh Hashanah. It’s based on “sincerely held religious belief”, not just your cultural background. (Now, if there were someone who said “I have a sincerely held religious belief that I need to spend Rosh Hashanah in contemplation on the beach,” then that would be different.)

            1. Pescadero*

              Yeah – that is the problem.

              “Sincerely held religious belief” shouldn’t be placed any higher than “temporarily interested in going to the beach”, or “wants to go see a comedy show”.

              1. AMT*

                Exactly. I’m not sure how people in this thread are coming to the conclusion that religious observation is as involuntary as medical needs, or at least *more* involuntary than other non-religious philosophical or moral beliefs.

                I mean, I think I’m obligated—ethically speaking—to do some kind of unpaid work for the common good. It’s not in any way optional to me (in the sense that going to the beach is optional). It’s a sincerely held belief and I would feel as though I were violating my ethical system if I stopped doing pro bono work in my field. I’m that respect, I’d fall into the category of “not doing anything fun with PTO, but observing an important obligation.” But I absolutely don’t think I’m entitled to more PTO to do that than someone who’s planning to use theirs to go to the beach.

                1. Spencer Hastings*

                  I think your beef is with Title VII, which has generally been interpreted to mean that religious reasons for doing *just about anything* are seen as more legitimate than secular ones (and this includes, very saliently, employment law). That’s what my beef is with. But that’s not likely to change.

            2. namelesscommentator*

              I’d actually push back, that I think in this scenario, that “sincerely held religious belief” is on par with “cultural background.”

              The Christians at my work place have a calendar that caters to their cultural background regardless of how devout they are. Why shouldn’t we?

              I shouldn’t have to pass some litmus test of covering my hair, or eating a specific diet for my religion and culture to be to be respected in the workplace. Why do we subject Jews and Muslims to the “religious enough” test but accept that Christians who don’t follow any number of religious rules should have their culture respected?

              1. Spencer Hastings*

                I don’t think I said that someone should have to cover their hair to take off for a holiday? If they have the sincerely held religious belief that they are required to perform certain rituals on the holiday instead of going to work, IANAL but I’m pretty sure that’s specifically protected regardless of what other religious beliefs they do or don’t have.

                I was specifically responding to the bit about Jews who haven’t seen the inside of a synagogue in years — it sounded like those people are non-practicing (like me). I may have misunderstood that part.

                This reminds me of when I was in high school and had to miss several days of class for a close family member’s wedding. (I know that work and school are not the same, but it’s frustrating for the same reason.) It was super awkward to actually get the work to make up, and all of that administrative stuff, because going to a family wedding was classified as a “vacation” and thus an unexcused absence. (Furthermore, teachers were not technically required to allow me to make up the work I missed. All of the relevant ones did in this case, but that was just their good judgment.) And I remember thinking “why is it fine with the school if I miss school on Rosh Hashanah, but such a huge problem to miss school for my relative’s wedding?” To me, they were basically the same thing: my family expected me to show up at a ceremony, so I did. It made no sense that they should have such different rules.

                Similarly, I don’t want “extra” time off on Rosh Hashanah now either — I’m non-practicing, I have literally nothing I would want to do that day. But I’d be frustrated that the things that do actually matter to me aren’t “worth” these extra days.

                1. Namelesscommentator*

                  The question isn’t about legal responsibility – it’s about equity.

                  We don’t question people who want Christmas or Easter off, even if they commonly break biblical guidelines. But we do question Jews and Muslims who don’t follow every law (or perceived law, as there’s varying interpretation) if they request their holidays off.

            3. time_ebbs*

              I thought Hey Alma published a good article last September titled “Yes, Secular Jews Can Take Time Off for the High Holidays” which also highlights some of the issues people have around taking time off – both logistically in getting the time off from work and feeling like you can’t take the time off if you’re not actively doing something related to the holiday (such as going to synagogue).

          5. My Name is Mine*

            And because I have to use one of my leave options (vacation, personal, or making up the time ) to take the leave, I feel no guilt in taking the days (e.g. I dont actually observe 2 days for RH, but I always take both off work) even if Im not doing anything religious (I should consider the beach if it’s warm enough!) for both days.

            If I got the time for free (my friends who teach in the public school system get to just take the day as long as the holiday in question is part of the school board’s recognized list of observances) then I would feel more obligated to go to work if I wasn’t going to shul.

            When I was a kid, that was always the choice from my parents: school or shul.

            Since I have to pull the leave from my leave banks anyways, I consider the time off as my little bit of DEI enforcement of centering the idea that I get to take my religious holidays even if Im not being religious the whole time, just as Christians and people who claim they dont have religion (but celebrate Christmas aka Christian by defaults) get to have Christmas off even if all they are doing is going to a movie or a party.

          6. Chirpy*

            Plus, if one had to prove they were “religious enough” to get time off, by what criteria would you rank things? For a while, my main religious observance was hiking in the woods. I got more out of that than I did sitting in a formal service.

            Conversely, I know some atheists who go to church occasionally. They just like the esthetic, but hold no beliefs.

          1. Willow Sunstar*

            This is true, my company lumps PTO and sick time together. If you have to visit a doctor in-person, it’s all the same bucket.

        2. zinzarin*

          Who said that days off are for fun? They’re for what you want to use them for. If you want to use them for non-fun religious observances, you can choose to do that. If you want to use them for concerts or hiking, you can do that too.

          The only equitable solution provides the same amount of PTO to all employees, to use as they see fit.

        3. Wintermute*

          I’m kind of baffled by the idea that it has anything to do with how “fun” the activity is. First, not all religious holidays are serious and solemn, many are joyous occasions. Second, not all personal days are “fun” either, they could be for neutral things or even decidedly unfun things like going to the DMV, medical appointments or housework. Third, there are tons of “not really fun but fulfilling’ obligations people use PTO for, from dance recitals to family events.

          Fourth, the worst day you don’t work is still better than the best one you do in most cases, so it’s not about how “fun” what you’re doing is, it’s about if that time is your own or you are working. If you choose to attend a religious function that’s still you having the freedom to make a choice.

          1. AMT*

            Exactly! People get personal meaning in all sorts of ways, fun or not. Religious meaning shouldn’t be prioritized above non-religious meaning.

          2. Ezri Dax*

            Boosting this comment, as a (non-theistic) Satanist. I live in a relatively conservative part of the Midwest. No way in h*ll am I telling my employer what my religion is to get the days I might want off. I think the best way is a generous pool of days people can use for whatever they want, religious or not, that people don’t have to disclose their use of.

        4. JM60*

          If you are religiously observant, a day spent fasting or in prayer isn’t exactly the same as a fun day off

          I think this is like saying, “A dollar spent tithing isn’t a dollar spent on having fun.” It shouldn’t matter. Someone shouldn’t get more or less money because they think they are obligated to spend it on religion. Similarly, someone shouldn’t get more or less PTO because they think they are obligated to spend it on religion.

          What should happen is that everyone gets ample of paid time off, and as much flexibility as practical to use it when they need to. Beyond that, whether you spend it on religion or Netflix should be irrelevant to how much you get.

      3. jalapeno*

        Well, yes. “Equitable” is about giving people what they need, not about giving everyone the exact same thing.

            1. JM60*

              In this case, it’s fair to give people an equal amount of time off regardless of religion (though changed may need to be made on which days are taken off).

              If I belong to a religion that demands that I tithe, would it be equitable to pay me more to offset for this additional expense? I think most people would agree it would not be. Similarly, I think just because a religion demands you spend time rather than money doesn’t mean it would be equitable for you to be paid more PTO to cover that additional (time) expense.

        1. Jenna Webster*

          Right, and right now, Christians get what they want but don’t need and no one else does. I guess we either take away Christian holidays, including Christmas, especially since Christianity doesn’t require that people don’t work on that day, and give people time off for their religious holidays on which they are required to fast, pray, and not work.

          1. Beth*

            Great I need bonus days off to visit my aging parents. I need them so I should just get them and screw everyone else right?

            1. Beth*

              (Different Beth here) I know you’re saying this as a “gotcha” but genuinely yes! You should have time to see your aging parents!

              All employees have needs and obligations outside of work, and good employers make best-faith efforts to allow for those needs whenever possible. Some reasons to need time off–like religious accommodations, medical accommodations, FMLA–have some amount of legal protections in place because our society has a history of being shitty about them. Visiting family isn’t one of those, but it is something a good employer will try to work with a good employee on. I really appreciated the company that let me take some extra time off to visit my grandma when she was dying. She lived halfway across the country from me, seeing her before she passed was very important to me, and my manager went out of her way to make sure that could happen even though I didn’t have enough PTO left for it.

        2. Wintermute*

          but not giving people of different religions the exact same thing can get into some dicy territory– PTO is compensation, it’s no different morally, and potentially legally, than paying people differently based on their religion.

        3. Chief Bottle Washer*

          I’d have no problem with this if the argument was letting people take time off unpaid. If you are giving certain people more paid time off than others with the same job, that’s not cool. Ideally every employer gives sufficient paid time off that folks can take it to fulfill their desired assortment of holidays, vacations and general life stuff, not that certain people get more paid time off.

      4. Charlotte Lucas*

        Yes. It’s equity, like providing free menstrual products in women’s bathrooms. It’s not unfair to men that this happens.

        1. Yossariana*

          But people don’t (generally) choose to menstruate – by contrast, you do choose to follow a particular religion, and from there, choose your level of observance.

          1. Sloanicota*

            This is a slippery slope that I wouldn’t want to navigate as an HR person trying to keep a business running. To non-religious people I can see how “being religious” or “how observant you are in your religion” feel like choices someone is making. But I think people of devout belief wouldn’t agree, and arguably we are all born into cultures with certain expectations.

              1. Yossariana*

                Yes. An amazing new world of possibilities and opportunities opens up once you realize you have free will.

            1. AMT*

              True, but meaning is subjective and you could argue that non-religious people have the right to pursue meaningful rituals and observations to the same degree as religious people do. We don’t need *less* meaning just because we’re not religious. We have profound experiences, life transitions, cultural celebrations, and family events in the same way religious people do. Why shouldn’t we also get (for lack of a better phrase) “meaning leave”? Why is my trans friend’s gender reveal party less important than someone’s nephew’s christening?

                1. AMT*

                  Okay, replace “christening” with literally any other religious observance or ritual, and replace “gender reveal party” with literally any non-religious-but-meaningful observance or ritual.

            2. JM60*

              I don’t think you need to navigate that slipper slope if people are given a large bank of time off, and flexibility of when to spend it.

          2. Goose*

            But people also: choose to have children, choose to have relationships with elderly family members that they may need to care for… I don’t begrudge anyone a “chosen” obligation.

            1. JM60*

              But people generally shouldn’t be given any more or less compensation for those choices, and paid time off is a form of compensation as is money. The latter does present a flexibility issue that the former doesn’t (you don’t need to coordinate with your employer to spend money, but you do to spend your time off), but the total amount you get generally shouldn’t be affected by the employer treating treating one person’s life choice as more worthy than another’s.

            1. Modesty Poncho*

              But being ethnically Jewish and not religiously means you don’t need Jewish holidays off, so it’s irrelevant.

              1. Modesty Poncho*

                To clarify – I know Jewish Atheists. They practice Judaism, which is why they don’t just identify as “atheists”, and they deserve time to practice. I was raised Jewish but I do not practice – I am not Jewish. I do not need time off to not practice.

                1. Spencer Hastings*

                  So, I agree that I don’t need time off to not practice, but the idea that because I don’t practice, I’m “not Jewish” — ouch. I wish there were two different words (like most ethnic groups have!), so that we could disambiguate.

            2. Orsoneko*

              Yeah…I know this discussion encompasses a lot more than Judaism specifically, but in the context of this particular letter, any hard-line statement about religion being purely a matter of choice comes off as a bit…I don’t know, tone-deaf? I say this as someone who is culturally Jewish but has never wanted or needed to take a day off work for any of the High Holidays (and honestly would not have known that Rosh Hashanah starts tomorrow if my mom hadn’t mentioned it earlier today).

              Even putting that aside, I don’t think the binary of CHOICE vs. NOT A CHOICE is a particularly useful metric here, nor does it accurately map to the way most people actually experience and engage with religion. While I don’t presume to speak for every atheist / agnostic / areligious person in the world (I identify as all three of those things, more or less), I highly doubt that most of the people advancing this argument would say they made an active choice not to believe in God.

              1. Louise*

                Very much agreed – it reminds me a lot of the “you CHOSE to have children” type of comments. It’s just not useful and gives me very much crabs in the bucket feelings.

              2. Spencer Hastings*

                I agree that you don’t choose what you believe — I certainly can’t imagine “making a choice” to believe in a god through sheer force of will. But your *actions* are different. If you’re an adult, what specific actions you take on particular days, your level of adherence to your religion, and whether you affiliate yourself with a religion at all — that’s up to you. (That’s why I stopped practicing Judaism, for instance.)

        2. Beth*

          Though I do think there should just be menstrual products in every bathroom–trans guys exist and some of them menstruate!

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I thought of that after I posted. Personally, I would like truly private unisex bathrooms. That are also accessible. Then you can have all the products, the space, changing stations, and bars for mobility in one place.

            Also, I like when people get to celebrate their holidays. I understand why so many people get Christmas off (just due to the vast number of people who celebrate it in the US), but I think it stinks that so many people have to use vacation time to observe other holidays.

          2. Anax*

            Honestly, I really miss the little trash bins in the women’s room. Using the main trash bin for paper towels is… a little awkward.

            Which I guess loosely ties into another holiday thing – should people have to disclose their religious persuasion in order to get holidays? I can see how they would, but isn’t there also a compelling right to privacy about our personal lives at work, especially for marginalized groups who may fear discrimination or repercussions?

            1. I Have RBF*

              should people have to disclose their religious persuasion in order to get holidays?

              This is actually an issue.

              I’m pagan. Most Christians think pagans are devil worshiping pedophiles or something. So If I have to disclose my religion in order to get religious time off, I am not likely to do it. I don’t want to deal with the subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination that follows it. I wouldn’t have as much problem if I was Buddhist or Hindu, but the very idea of paganism sets off many Christians, and leads to a mess. I live in a liberal area of a liberal state, but IME atheists get less crap than pagans for some reason.

              1. Anax*

                Literally same here, lol. I don’t think I’d get discrimination, but I do think I’d get a lot more weird looks than I want to deal with at work.

        1. JM60*

          Sometimes fair does mean equal, sometimes it doesn’t. Is it fair if you and I are paid the same amount of money if I belong to a religion that demands that I donate 10% of my income to it? I think so. Moreover, I think the same thing about a religion demanding that you spend time rather than money.

      5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        It seems that in the end, you would end with people getting less than others based on their religious (non) affiliation.

        Or, word gets around that Jews (or another faith) get an extra 4 holiday days, and you get a lot of claims of conversion–and I really don’t want to think about an employer verifying an employee is genuinely of a faith to police qualifying for the new benefit.

        1. ina*

          I’m naive but I think most people are honest. I do think there will be a lot of religious people all of a sudden though — those are are non-observant suddenly being by the letter folks. But few and far between.

          I like a “no questions asked” policy — this is equitable to all. So even atheists can take a day to ponder their lack of religion on the day the Byzantine Empire fell or on the meaning of the life on World Family Day, I suppose, but it would need to be more effort/initiative into finding the holidays that resonate with them. That is what all religious holidays are at their core: a reflection on life, sorrow, hope, peace, faith, etc. You can do those things self-directed.

          1. doreen*

            I think how honest people will be depends on exactly how it’s done. I suspect most people will be honest if they actually have to say ” I need next Tuesday off because I am Religion X and I can’t work that day” . But I had a job once where although no extra days off where given for religious observances, people could fill out a form and check off all of the “days of significance” that they observed. It didn’t get them extra days off but it did get them priority for vacation approval. And lots of checked off days they didn’t really observe such as people who claimed to observe All Saint’s Day so that they would get priority when it was the day before Election Day but didn’t take it off other years.

          2. JM60*

            I like a “no questions asked” policy — this is equitable to all. So even atheists can take a day to ponder their lack of religion on the day the Byzantine Empire fell or on the meaning of the life on World Family Day

            That’s just paid time off. Is it not?

            To be clear, I’m in favor of that for everyone. But I think that’s just PTO, and some here think it’s unfair if they have to use PTO to spend time off for religious reasons (even if the employer took the approach of having no set holidays, and only PTO).

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Wasn’t that in a Judy Blume book (or some other YA novel of the time and type)? One of the narrator’s friends got all the worst teachers, so she started claiming all the religious holidays she could in order to skip school. Her father found out and gave her a speech about how much Jews (their religion) had gone through in order to practice their religion. (She did get reassigned some teachers, especially since it turned out her grades were still the highest in her classes, even with skipping.)

            1. Silver Robin*

              Props to the kid, I would have done the same XD (even as I 100% agree with the dad about how one should take observance seriously)

            2. Old and Don’t Care*

              It was Ellen Conford and I think the title was something like “The Alfred G. Graebner Handbook of Rules and Regulations”. I remember it because it referenced Zoroastrianism, which was new to me, and because I loved Ellen Conford.

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                Thank you! Now I remember which one it was. (I didn’t own it but did borrow from the library a few times.)

      6. Beth*

        In a company that generally has an attitude of accommodating for ‘life things’ (whether that’s religious events, medical needs, caregiving time, moving house, etc)…it probably mostly comes out in the wash. This is where unlimited PTO can shine, to me–it’s a setup that, *when approached with a culture of assuming that people will need a solid amount of time off, that they’ve hired people who can be trusted to be reasonable with their requests, and that they therefore should grant requests whenever possible*, can accommodate this kind of flexibility.

      7. Roland*

        What does “fair” mean? You can say one got more time off than the other, but you can say “both got time off for whatever holidays they need”. And atheist vs needs holidays doesn’t make sense as a distinction anyway, even though cultural Christians often talk about it that way. I’m a Jewish atheist and I want time off for Rosh Hashana just like a culturally Christian atheist wants time off for Christmas.

      8. M*

        This would have me (atheist) pretending to observe some religion so that I get the same number of days off as my religious co-workers. (That and I have faced religious discrimination at work when it came out I was an atheist, someone may choose to lie not for the extra days but the appearance of fitting in) And I wouldn’t feel bad about it either. It’s like allowing parents extra vacation days because they have kids. I’m just not willing to work somewhere that I get less paid time off because I make different choices than my co-workers. If x religion is determined to require the most “extra” days off, y, then everyone should be entitled to those y days off and it’s nobody’s business that I’m not spending the time doing religious things.

        1. Roland*

          If you want to brag about how you’d lie because other people are getting an accommodation you don’t need, we certainly can’t stop you.

          1. M*

            I’m not bragging. I’m saying that it would not be unethical for me to lie to get the same benefits that members of a different religious group get. I already frequently lie about my religious beliefs at work to avoid discrimination.

            I have spiritual beliefs too, but there are no official rules about it, so I can’t request an accommodation in order to spend my limited time on earth with the people I love or connecting to nature. Lying is just leveling the playing field.

            1. Roland*

              Is it unethical that someone who gave birth gets time off and I don’t when I didn’t give birth? Is it unethical that someone whose spouse died gets bereavement and I don’t when no one I know died? Heck, are other accommodation unethical too? Is it unethical that someone who just had surgery gets lifting tasks taken off of their plate? Is it unethical that someone with a broken foot gets a better parking spot? If you have needs, you can advocate for them without implying that it’s unethical for other people to get accommodations.

              1. M*

                Of course it’s fine for people with medical needs to take that time to recover. I’m not implying that religious people *shouldn’t* get time off to take care of their spiritual needs, if you want to reread what I wrote you’ll see that I just want the same treatment. It’s the implication that *I* have no spiritual needs and thus should work more that I take issue with. I just want the same time to live my life as I see fit regardless of my spiritual benefits.

                You call it an accommodation, I call it a benefit. In effect, you are asking that I work more hours for less money because my beliefs aren’t as important as yours, and frankly I’m offended by this. The effect is discriminatory. I am suggesting something not discriminatory. Please try to offer the same respect to nonbelievers that we are offering to you.

                1. M*

                  It’s more like I want bereavement leave for my common law partner that my married co-workers would get. In all your examples, the difference is that someone has a need and someone else doesn’t. I am telling you that I also have that need and I’m tired of it being denied.

                2. Roland*

                  To quote myself:

                  If you have needs, you can advocate for them without implying that it’s unethical for other people to get accommodations.

                3. M*

                  Oh phew, good thing I never implied that other people don’t need accommodations, only that I don’t want to receive unequal treatment on the basis of my religious beliefs. I think we’re in agreement then that everyone should get enough time off to lead a fulfilling life as they see fit.

      9. Pop Aficionado*

        Do you think that in general it’s reasonable to request and be granted accommodations that you don’t need?

      10. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Equitable doesn’t mean equal, as in, everyone gets the same number of days off. It means everyone gets the same kind of treatment; in this case, everyone with a religious holiday they observe gets it off. If you don’t have any religious holidays, then you don’t need the day off to observe a non-existent holiday.
        Plus, atheists do already get the holidays off that all the mainstream/culturally dominant christians get off, whether they celebrate them or not.

        1. Wintermute*

          that gets into potentially legally slippery territory though, if your official policy favors some religions over others that’s discrimination, as PTO is seen as compensation– it could be seen as no different than paying someone differently based on their religion.

        2. JM60*

          This is like saying, “If you don’t tithe, you don’t need as much money.” If you need to spend time and/or money on religion, then spend your time and/or money on religion. But others shouldn’t get paid less money or time off than you just because you spend some of your money and time on religion.

      11. Ms. Murchison*

        This is where you need to understand the difference between equitable and equal. The day an atheist wants to take a day off to fast and repent is the day they can complain about me needing a day off for Yom Kippur.

    3. IDK42*

      Genuine question- where’s the line? I have an employee who just asked for Religious accommodations along these line. Except that when she sent the list of Holidays she’s requesting time off (without needing to use PTO) for for the next 3 months there is one holiday day *every* week and two in a couple of weeks. I know her well enough to know that she’s requesting this due to a sincerely held Religious belief. The agreement settled on, as a trial, was that she can work 4 10s (because she still wont work weekends because its the sabbath) the weeks it’s just one and will have to use PTO for the extra 10 hours in the weeks it’s 2. If it was just every once in a while no one at my company would have an issue with the request. Honestly, if she held a different position I wouldn’t have a problem with it. but where I’m struggling is that she’s a Team Lead, which means 90% of her job is to be available to the team she leads to answer questions and help untangle issues that they run into. the other 10% is acting as an escalation point for the people her team supports. Her request means that she will be unavailable to do her job a fifth of every week.

      1. And I'm the alchemist of the hinterlands*

        I would say that someone getting to work 4 10 hours days (my dream that will probably never happen due to working in education) is not at all equitable. And this is about reasonable accommodations- if this accommodation is affecting her work as a team lead, it is not sustainable and is going to cause problems down the road. I don’t really have a solution, but I can’t see how this is going to work and not cause issues for the workflow and resentment among the other employees.

      2. Caramel & Cheddar*

        That sounds like something for management to figure out in terms of coverage, rather than for an artificial limit to be placed on her religious holidays.

      3. Beth*

        I hear you that accommodating frequent religious holidays is harder to juggle with business needs than accommodating an occasional one. And if she’s on board with flexing time to work in some extra days off, then fine. But yes, being OOO does mean a person is unavailable to do their job…and yes, sometimes people do need to do that, even team leads. That’s part of hiring humans and not robots, and your coverage plan for her role should still work.

        What would your coverage plan be if she had an FMLA arrangement to be OOO every Friday to take her mom to doctors appointments? What if she had an ongoing illness of her own and needed to be OOO for a day or two every week for treatment? What if she had a massive backlog of PTO and decided to clear it by taking every Friday off for three months?

        It’s also worth thinking about what your actual business need is. Okay, maybe you can’t accommodate 1-2 days off every single week for months without some kind of arrangement around workload. Is asking her to work 10-hour days on the other days, in a role where her job is to be available to her team, actually addressing the business need? Or is that you feeling frustrated that she needs to be OOO and wanting to make her make up for it somehow, even though working longer hours when her team has already gone home might not make sense for her role? Is asking her to use PTO a reality of needing this many days off at this company (e.g. you can’t afford coverage for her to be out for both her holidays and an annual vacation), or is it mostly feeling like it’s unfair for her to use the time even though the business would actually be able to accommodate it?

        1. IDK42*

          She requested the 4 10s. She’s not a salaried employee- she’s hourly with overtime so if she only worked for 4 8 hour days each week she’d only get paid for 32 hours. And no, I don’t think giving her an extra 16 days of paid time off for the next 3 months would work, especially given that it’s not just for the next 3 months, it’s ongoing.
          I am honestly not sure if it will work for business needs or not, that’s why we approved it on a trial basis for 6 weeks.
          to the commentors who said that it’s my responsibility as a manager to handle coverage- I wholeheartedly agree- for vacations that don’t happen constantly. we planned this role based on the assumption that we’d have someone in it 5 days a week *most* weeks.

      4. Roland*

        The Jewish holiday season is coming up, that’s literally what prompted this letter. It’s not like this every month.

        1. IDK42*

          She’s not Jewish. She’s a very specific a niche version of Christian. I am not sure what she specifically identifies as. She honors the “biblical” holidays. I do think that there is some overlap with what she celebrates and the Jewish holidays but she’s told me that they are different. The dates that she sent have one to two days every week through the end of the year and based on conversations we’ve had I know that there are more that she will observe throughout the year.
          I don’t think it’s relevant but she *doesn’t* observe Christmas as she believes that it’s beginnings were demonic and she doesn’t observe Thanksgiving (unsure why on that one).
          I also have a Jewish employee and the dates that she observes holidays are fewer and not all the same as the employee who requested accommodation.

          1. Meh*

            I’m gonna guess that since “sabbath”is referenced and Christmas is “demonic”, you’re probably working with a Seventh Day Adventist.

      5. Pop Aficionado*

        It’s the holiday season right now. Yes, we have “a lot” of holidays this time of year, and several of them require some time off work. But not literally all of them, and not all of all of them.

        For observant Jews in the diaspora, we cannot work on Rosh HaShanah for the entire first and second day of the holiday. This year, that’s sunset on Friday the 15th through sunset Sunday the 17th. We cannot work on Yom Kippur (sunset on Sunday the 24th through sunset Monday the 25th).

        Sukkot is seven days long, but work is only prohibited on the first two days, which this year fall on a weekend.

        Shemini Atzeret are Simchat Torah are next. They too fall on a weekend this year.

        And that’s the end of the holiday season for Jews! So you don’t have to worry about being “inconvenienced” by this. Great news for the non-Jews wringing their hands about our many, many, many holidays!

    4. Rebecca*

      I’m going to be honest and say that as someone that doesn’t celebrate any religious holidays, that seems unfair. Just because I don’t celebrate a religious holiday doesn’t mean I’m not entitled to extra time off to reflect and spend time with family (which is the nature of religious holidays). I have no problem working on the religious holidays of others and coordinating that time I take off when it makes the most sense.

      I’d argue that this would actually penalize people like me; I don’t do religion and my immediate family doesn’t do religion. We spend time together in different contexts, and we’re just as entitled to that time as someone doing it for religious reasons.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I always think these debates are interesting. It may be reasonable to say your annual PTO is intended for all the down-time/non religious family gatherings you may need. In some places that’s two weeks a year plus Saturday and Sunday every week. For those whose sincerely held religious beliefs require specific actions on several specific days not covered, they may need more. But I certainly wouldn’t want to be in the business of determining who is sincere and devout enough to really need the time (and we don’t do that to Christians at Christmas, which is almost universally given off in most 9-5 office jobs).

      2. Fikly*

        Well, first, yes, it’s unfair, but people who aren’t religious are penalized constantly in US society.

        However, would a more equitable distribution of time off for people regardless of what religion they observe be more unfair to you than the current system, where people of one religion are accommodated, but all other religions are not?

        And if not, is there a reason to keep them in the situation they are? While they are religious, they are penalized in comparison to the majority religion, and there’s rarely a good reason for minorities to keep other minorities down. Even though the religious look down their noses at those who don’t practice, we can be better than them.

        1. Brooklyn*

          Yes, it would. At the moment, as an atheist, I get off the same number of days as my coworkers. It’s annoying that some of those days are pre-determined for me, but I know that I spend the same number of hours working as everyone else. If you start allowing religious coworkers to start taking off additional time because they choose to participate in an organized religion, I am force to either A. lie about my irreligious beliefs or B. work more hours for the same pay, probably by covering for my religious coworkers.

          This is less “minorities keeping other minorities down” than it is White Feminists who thought Civil Rights was a asking for too much. I will support your rights and fight for you to be able to observe your religion, but I expect you will fight for my equality as well, and not forget it when it’s inconvenient. It’s ridiculous that Christian Americans get to spend Christmas dinner with their families and Jewish Americans often can’t do the same for Rosh Hashanah. It would be equally ridiculous to portray having a meal with your family and friends as somehow more valuable to a Theist than an Atheist.

          This is the same argument about parents getting more time off than non-parents. Everyone is entitled to the same amount of PTO. If I spend mine taking my kid to the dentist, and my coworker spend theirs going hiking in Spain, I’m not somehow entitled to more PTO because I didn’t get to have enough fun during my time off. I chose to have kids, the same way that people choose to participate in organized religion. They shouldn’t be penalized for it, but they shouldn’t be rewarded for it either.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I’m really disappointed in my fellow atheists throughout this thread.

            I don’t need maternity leave because I’m not having a baby, and I don’t need extra days off for religious observances because I don’t have any religion to observe.

            Just because *I* don’t need those things doesn’t mean I shouldn’t want the people who *do* need them to get them!

            This feels as gross as people who complain about the idea of McDonald’s employees being paid a living wage. If you feel that you aren’t getting enough PTO, take that up with your boss. But whether or not you have enough time off is not affected by giving someone else a couple extra days for the high holidays.

            1. Wintermute*

              It’s a sore spot for atheists because it’s just another way religion and the religious are given benefits we’re not.

              1. I Have RBF*

                Exactly. People with socially acceptable religions should not automatically get more time off than those who don’t.

                It’s safer for me to claim to be agnostic or atheist than to have to disclose that I’m pagan in many places.

                IMO, they need to give everyone enough time off to account for major holidays in the major religions, then let people chose which to take PTO for versus just generic vacation.

                While religious holidays are not quite the same as vacations, to an employer they should be the same, because a person’s religion, or lack thereof, is not an employer’s business. If Moshe celebrates Rosh Hashanah, Ibrahim celebrates Eid, Pradeep celebrates Diwali, and Bill doesn’t celebrate any, it shouldn’t matter to the employer. They all should have enough PTO to allow them to take their major holidays* off, without asking what their religion is. Employers should not be in the business of determining what a sincere religious belief is.

                * The reason I say “major holidays” is that a few religions have major and minor holidays nearly every week. An example is Catholics and all the saints’ days.

              2. MCMonkeyBean*

                You don’t speak for all atheists. I’m certainly not gonna sit here and try to claim that atheists have had it harder than Jewish people…

            2. Caramel & Cheddar*

              “I don’t need extra days off for religious observances because I don’t have any religion to observe”

              I think this goes with how up thread, religious holidays seem to be characterized as a nice day off to spend with family, and not an actual day of religious observation (which often come with families spending time together). If your family observes a day primarily as a nice get together and doesn’t do whatever other observances go with it, that’s fine, but “spend time with your family!” is not the reason it’s given off.

              1. Weez*

                I think there are a lot of not-so-fun duties I observe due to my *moral* beliefs, and I’m not so sure why they are due less deference (and pay) than someone who observes not-so-fun *religious* beliefs. My morals tell me I have to shower my grandmother who doesn’t recognize me and can be aggressive. Your religion tells you you have to slaughter a lamb and give some of its meat to the poor. It’s not my choice to have moral beliefs (though it is my choice to live by them), it’s not your choice to have religious beliefs (though it is your choice to live by them). Why, then, is one to be treated so differently?

                1. midge*

                  I agree with this and would like to hear from people who believe that personal moral needs are less important than formal religious needs vis a vis days off. Not a rhetorical question: religious people who think atheists’ needs are less important because they’re not about religion, why do you think this? (Asking in terms of ethics, not the law; if we’re talking about employers’ legal obligations, that’s a different question.)

                2. JM60*


                  I’m not the person you’re asking, but I’ve always viewed a religious obligation to be a subset of a moral obligation. Their religion telling them to do something means they are morally obligated to do it.

                  IMO, a moral obligation for religious reasons should be regarded as no more important than a moral obligation for secular reasons.

            3. Statler von Waldorf*

              Would you be equally disappointed in a woman who was upset about getting paid less then the men in her office because her male co-workers had “families to support?”

              Otherwise, please explain to me why I shouldn’t be upset if I don’t qualify for paid time off simply because I’m an atheist. That’s 100% religious discrimination in my book, and I’m not going to roll over and accept that I deserve less because theists of all denominations are quite happy discriminating against atheists.

              “But whether or not you have enough time off is not affected by giving someone else a couple extra days for the high holidays.”

              This is categorically false in any job that requires full-time coverage with a limited number of employees qualified to do it. I have absolutely been told in a previous job that I couldn’t take time off because another employee would be off during that period, and I don’t think that is uncommon.

            4. JM60*

              This feels as gross as people who complain about the idea of McDonald’s employees being paid a living wage. If you feel that you aren’t getting enough PTO, take that up with your boss. But whether or not you have enough time off is not affected by giving someone else a couple extra days for the high holidays.

              I don’t think that’s a good analogy. I think it would be more like a McDonald’s employee who wants to get paid more than their coworkers because they think they have a religious obligation to give 10% of their income to a church. Their coworkers shouldn’t be paid any less (for the same work) just because they don’t have this financial obligation. The fact that they’re all paid inadequately is a separate problem that should be solved by raising all of their compensation equally, regardless of how they spend that money.

              Similarly, the fact that some employees think they have a religious obligation to spend time on their religion shouldn’t mean that they get more time off amount. A difference between time and money here is that you need to coordinate with your employer to spend time off, but not money. An employer should give employees priority to spend that time off on the dates base on need, but they shouldn’t grant people any more or less total time off based off of religion.

        2. Rebecca*

          My solution would be to provide “family days” or something similar. Everyone gets a set amount of time, separate from PTO, to celebrate whatever and however they choose. I’m not remotely religious, but my value system is supportive of community and family celebrations. I just personally don’t like the god part; I don’t think it actually matters what you’re celebrating and whether it involves a god or not in terms of spending that time to reflect, be with those close to you, and serve your community. No reason a pagan can’t celebrate the equinox, and a Muslim can’t celebrate Eid, and I can’t celebrate how much I love to invite everyone over for a giant home cooked meal followed by a day or two of quiet family time. And we all use the same bank of time off to do that.

          1. Fox*

            Wouldn’t this be another PTO bucket by another name? Unless you’re denying people without any family the time off? Whats the difference between this and just giving more PTO? Just, more PTO, for people to use as makes the most sense to them.

            I am in favor of mandating a floating holiday for all religious federal holidays. If Christians don’t automatically get their days (only christmas and easter sunday as far as I know), and everyone gets the same days off, thats now equitable. Some people use more of their PTO for religious observances, in the same way that some people use more of their PTO to take care of a relative or any other not really optional activity. Yes, people with less religious obligations will have more “free” days to do whatever they want with, but thats also true of those with no family obligations.

      3. amoeba*

        Yup. Also, where do you draw the line? For instance, I know a lot of people who aren’t actually Christian (so, either left the church – big thing in Europe at the moment, or were never a member), but are culturally Christian in that they celebrate Christmas. Honestly, that’s probably the majority of people here! Plus the ones that are members on paper, but not religious in any way. I’d say those two groups together probably make up 90% of the people celebrating Christmas/Easter/etc. here – I literally know, like, two or three people, max, for whom those days are actually about religion.

        So – do the ones who are members but not observant get the day off? Do you need to present proof of your membership? Or only the *actually* religious ones, and if so, how on earth would you check that?

        I get that religion is a bigger thing in the US than in Europe, but still.

        Also, I’m no expert of any kind, but a lot of religious holidays are in fact joyful celebration/family days/etc, right? I mean, yes, there are ones that are about fasting or repenting or whatever, but I’d say most (moderately) religious people still treat them as an enjoyable day off. I’d feel pretty shitty for enjoying some nice family time and good food at Christmas while my atheist coworker is in the office! (Even Good Friday, which would very much be a day of quiet contemplation, is definitely just treated as a nice day off/long weekend by all Christians I know…)

        1. Sloanicota*

          I keep having to check myself during this discussion. I’ve never been offered good Friday off, nor is Easter/Spring break a holiday in my field – although as it reliably falls on a Sunday, I’ve never been required to work the day itself, which is my point above about how the Christian calendar is baked in to our work schedule in the Western world at least (side point, do non-Christian countries work a different workweek? There are definitely places where the whole country slows way down at Ramadan, right?).

          1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

            The Indonesian work/school week is Mon-Sat, at least where I was on Java and Sumatra, which are both primarly Muslim areas. Although in Jakarta, a 5-day work week was more common than other areas, I think influenced by the West/Christian calendar (and because I was visiting family in the expat community, working for North American businesses, so my sample was biased). And in the areas I was in on Sumatra, the Islamic beliefs are deeply combined and in some ways diminished by traditional cultural beliefs of the area.

            And in Dubai, the work week is M-Th + Friday half day, at least for gov’t.

            So yes, work weeks do change, but are still very heavily impacted by the western/Christian norm

          2. hello, kitty*

            Yes, non-christian countries work a different workweek. When I lived in Israel I worked Sunday -Friday, with a half day on Friday. i think some people got all of friday off.

          3. Charlotte Lucas*

            I have worked somewhere that gave the afternoon of Good Friday off (weird in the US, honestly). The local bars were the greatest beneficiary on that one.

            1. mskyle*

              Good Friday is a New York Stock Exchange holiday, so it’s not uncommon to have it off if you work in the financial industry.

              I used to work for a hospital in the US that had major Jewish holidays off by default (a historically-Jewish hospital, unsurprisingly). There was a lot of flexibility (depending on your job role) about being able to swap them for your holidays of choice. IIRC they got swapped out for temporally-close holidays rather than correspondingly-important religious holidays. So, like, no day off for Labor Day or Indigenous Peoples/Columbus Day, but yes for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I can’t remember how Christmas was handled, whether it was just a very popular day to take a floating holiday or if it was actually an official day off.

              I think now that place just has one big time bank for holidays, vacation, and sick leave which, I don’t know, I guess it’s kind of fair? But it sucks if you’re sick.

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                We had no connection to the NYSE. It was a Midwestern health insurance company that wasn’t even publicly traded.

                Weirdly, we never got New Year’s Eve off, and even Christmas Eve wasn’t a paid holiday every year. I would have preferred either one of those.

          4. sb51*

            Israel definitely has a Sunday-Thursday 5-day work week for 9-5-type jobs. And I’m embarrassed to admit I had to google for which day was the Islamic “day of rest”. (Friday, and the Wikipedia page on the “Workweek and weekend” is fascinating if you like that sort of thing.)

          5. NoTwoDayWeekend*

            In fact, there are a few areas in NYC where people work/go to (public) school Mon-Thurs + Friday morning + Sunday morning. So you don’t have to leave the US to find this

    5. MigraineMonth*

      I think you’re right. Equal treatment would be to remove Christmas and such as required days off and give everyone enough PTO to celebrate all their holidays and also have some vacation.

      Equitable treatment, on the other hand, would probably be handled more like an accommodation. Your religion requires you not to work these 5 days? You get them off without having to dip into your PTO at all. Your religion requires you to never work Sunday? You will never get scheduled for Sundays (but you might miss out on the extra pay we offer for weekend shifts).

      I do think that a company that does that should strive to be equitable across the board, though. Giving non-PTO time off for religious holidays but requiring an employee to dip into PTO for their cancer treatment would not be a good look.

      1. JM60*

        Your religion requires you not to work these 5 days? You get them off without having to dip into your PTO at all.

        If someone’s religion requires them to pay 10% of their salary to the religious organization, should employers pay them more then everyone else to compensate? I think not. I would be pretty upset if I found out that my employer paid others more (for the same work) because I don’t tithe, and I would feel the same way about spending time off instead of spending money.

        Employers should give employees flexibility on which days they take off, but the fact that some people spend some of their time on religion shouldn’t mean they get more days than others.

  5. AVP*

    My mother’s company (large, multinational, many employees and locations) closed for Christmas-New Years with no PTO taken, and then beyond that they gave everyone floating holidays to use on whichever days were needed. I think the only other automatic days off were major non-religious US holidays (Thanksgiving, Labor Day, 4th of July).

    So there was still the one extra Christian day for Christmas, but outside that it seems like a pretty decent system? Provided that your boss is not questioning which actual days you take, and that nonreligious people can use them too.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I think the issue is that every Sunday is an automatic day off for most people, so you’re basically getting 52 religious holidays a year because it’s baked right into our culture, while for other religions there are holidays that don’t fall on Sundays.

        1. Disco Janet*

          So my husband works for a company that makes PTO/Payroll/Timesheets for companies around the world, you’d actually be surprised how this varies from country to country. He says in some countries the “weekend” is actually Thursday and Friday or Friday and Saturday.

          For AAM, you’re probably right that the vast majority of the readership has Saturday and Sunday off assuming they work office jobs. When I was a waitress, those were my working days.

        2. amoeba*

          Yeah, like, the 5 day week is a great achievement, I’m pretty sure most people are very happy about that even if they’re not Christian? (Again, very secular country here, almost nobody regularly uses Saturday or Sunday for any kind of religious observance!)

          1. Sloanicota*

            I think my point was I would never be required to use PTO for Easter, because it always falls on a Sunday, and in our culture Sundays are always automatically off, because Christians wrote the rules; Passover does not automatically fall on Sunday, so Jewish people have to navigate that in a different way.

            1. Beany*

              Though in Christianity, Good Friday is the more important day. Easter Sunday has much less religious significance. Do people standardly get Good Friday off?

              1. Kayem*

                It depends on everything from the employer to locality. I used to live in a very Catholic city so Good Friday and Ash Wednesday were always days off for businesses and schools, even among non-Catholic employers. Even the city’s public schools canceled classes on those days.

                The city I live in now has a very, very small Catholic population and in general, Good Friday is less important than Easter. That’s what it was like where I grew up as well. Easter was considered far more important than Good Friday. Even Hobby Lobby is open on Good Friday and they are always closed on Sundays for religious reasons.

              2. Media Monkey*

                good friday and easter monday are public holidays in the UK (not to the level of xmas day – everything is shut, but they are bank holidays and time has to be given in lieu for people who work them). the majority of offices will be closed plus schools, banks (obviously) etc. i think we have a lot less public holidays than in the US, but more religiously based ones. we get xmas day, boxing day, new year’s day, good friday, easter monday, may day, spring holiday, one in late august (which is scotland is swapped for 2nd Jan). we have also had public holidays for the queen’s funeral, the king’s coronation and william and kate’s wedding.

          2. Beth*

            I think the point isn’t that a 5 day work week is religious–it’s that timing the 2 off days to cover the Christian day of rest and common holiday day (Sunday) is probs connected to our religious history. If the 5 day work week was designed fully secularly, there’d be no reason that the weekend shouldn’t be Wednesday and Thursday, right? Or if it was designed in a Jewish society, it might be Friday and Saturday to accommodate Shabbat.

            1. Sal*

              In Israel, weekends are just Shabbat (and arguably Friday afternoon). Sunday is a full working and school day. A big chunk of my HS class did study abroad in Israel and this was 100% the hardest cultural-difference pill to swallow. (Second was squeegeeing the floors.)

              1. Pop Aficionado*

                A lot of people leave work early on Friday, though, like 3 pm.

                (Personally, I think all of Friday should be a weekend day, considering how much time it can take to prepare for Shabbat if you’re observant, and also considering that a two-day weekend is better than a one-day weekend.)

        3. Ms. Climpson*

          If I wanted to properly celebrate Shabbat, I’d need half of Friday off to prepare. As it is, I leave early and make up those hours Sunday night because my boss allows me that flexibility.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      Yeah, my company gives vacation (starts at 3 weeks when you’re hired), shutdown between Xmas/New Years, and then 5 ‘personal’ days (don’t roll over the way you can roll vacation) and 1 ‘me’ day (generally unrestricted except in CA it has to be taken in your birthday month? Please don’t ask why, I don’t know). So you have 5-6 days per year which have to be used during that calendar year but can be used for whatever you want.
      I think it’s a little much to say “well, non-christians HAVE to use them for religious holidays and christians don’t”, but really, if you’re only giving off shutdown week (and most biotechs to this because school is off and people travel–same reason we also get the Friday after Thanksgiving off), then any other christian holiday that isn’t christmas has to be taken off with some form of PTO. You can’t give days for religious holidays only–as an atheists, that gives others days off I won’t get. Accepting that christmas is a day where things are closed (for the most part), it’s fairest to give a bunch of PTO days, in whatever format makes sense for the company and size, for people to use as they see fit.

    3. Blarg*

      For me, I got way more annoyed when my org started closing from Christmas to NY. It’s the LAST week of the year I want off. Not my holidays. Not when I’d choose to take off. And I feel like it is essentially a lost week of PTO. If we have the budget to pay everyone to not work that week, just give us an extra week of PTO and let me choose. I work for a non profit that supports state gov agencies and while some people may take off that time, the state agencies certainly don’t close.

  6. Kimmy Schmidt*

    I really like the 3 “personal days” I get a year. These don’t roll over, unlike our regular PTO. Some of my colleagues use them for religious observances, some use them for birthdays, and some just space them out throughout the year.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      This is what my employer does, and it’s what the Jewish employees typically use them for. The rest of us tend to treat them as “emergency but not medical” days – plumbing disaster, car trouble, etc.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I had that at a previous company. I always used them for the High Holidays. Meant that while I had to cut into my PTO, I didn’t have to cut in quite as much. Years like this one, with Rosh Hashanah over the weekend, would have meant I had two extra days just like the rest of my co-workers.

    3. Anne of Green Gables*

      My employer recently added 2 personal days. They are separate from vacation and sick leave, and like others have stated do not roll over, so you must use them in the fiscal year.

      The wording they use is “days of personal significance.” There is no other restriction, and managers are encouraged to approve them as a matter of course. I’ve seen staff use them for birthdays, election day, Juneteenth (we did not get that holiday added) , or just because. I use one for my elementary-school-age son’s first day of school, as that’s a personally significant day for me.

      1. Kayem*

        That’s why my employer considered it a flex holiday. You can take Christmas off as a paid holiday or you can work that day and take a different day off. Granted, the only reason it really works is because we’re 99% remote now so it doesn’t matter if the office is shut down. Those who aren’t remote get some kind of incentive if they want to work that day but can’t because the office is closed. I don’t know what it is, as everyone I’ve ever interacted with is remote.

  7. Ole Pammy's Getting What She Wants*

    my office offers a “floating” holiday in addition to PTO to use whenever you want. Perhaps a more equitable solution would be to take the number of days the office is closed for Christian holidays and offer that number of floating holidays (or a number that feels appropriate) as standard compensation. in theory, this wouldnt affect those who celebrate Christian holidays and would offer those who dont the flexibility to apply that off-time to the holidays they want.

    1. Ole Pammy's Getting What She Wants*

      I mean to offer the floating holidays INSTEAD of automatically closing for Christian holidays, by the way. Christian employees can use their floating holidays on those days.

  8. molly*

    My organisation allows people to swap Christian religious holidays for other religious holidays – for instance, you could choose to work Christmas Day but take Eid off instead.

    1. Magenta*

      This sounds good, but is it a requirement that the other day is a religious holiday? That sounds like a bit of an overstep to me. It might be better to leave it a little more open and allow people to swap Christian holidays for another day of their choosing.

    2. Emily*

      My office also does this! We follow the US federal holiday calendar. We can swap any of those days for any holiday that you personally find more important. So for example, I swapped president’s day for earth day. Others may swap the days for a solstice or Halloween too. It gets a little tricky because they’ve said that we can’t swap a day for national donut day or your birthday. Our office is still working out the kinks because this is our first year doing it.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        This is interesting, and I would be interested in an update in a year or two when the kinks are worked out. I do think it sounds like they need to decide between “holiday” and “personally important.” I stated above that we get 2 days of personal significance, and I take one for my child’s first day of school; others use them for election day. Neither are holidays, but are personally important. Super irritating that your employer specifically stated you can’t use it for your birthday.

    3. Yes And*

      I think this is an excellent solution for workplaces that need staffing 365 days a year. But if it’s at a workplace that is otherwise closed on Christmas, and the worker would be limited in their ability to get work done (or even access the building!) then this policy is just a different way of punishing non-Christian employees.

      1. Fox*

        if it works out that 9 out of 10 employees in an office want christmas, its going to end up the same. Just as if the majority of employees take Rosh, and the one Catholic is alone in the office. We can’t actually change the fact that some religions are minorities. It could also happen that 9 of 10 people decide to take Election Day off and one person voted early.

  9. GregariousRabbit*

    We have a holiday swapping policy! We get 13 or so regular “holidays” off in the year and all are open for swapping, so I’ve swapped President’s Day for Lunar New Year and I know others have swapped Columbus Day for Yom Kippur etc. The spirit of the swap is to encourage people to be able to observe whatever holidays they want to, and we’re asked to do it at the beginning of the calendar year (so it’s not meant for you to squeeze extra vacation days out of it).

    1. Llama Wrangler*

      This seems like a good way to do it! My company is closed for one Christian holiday (Christmas day) and we have one floating holiday – but as many people have mentioned while that’s equitable I’d still need to eat into my PTO to cover all of my religion’s holidays. But if I could, I would happily give up my day off on Veteran’s day for example.

    2. Excel Jedi*

      I like this response, and it seems more workable when so many of our jobs can now be done from home – at least on an intermittent basis – so that very few people have to navigate transit on holidays. Especially because there’s a lot of issues with Indigenous People’s Day (Columbus Day), I’d be happy to work that day and take off for a more meaningful holiday.

    3. nonprofit director*

      I really like this, too. Our company generally follows the federal holiday schedule, which means the only Christian holiday we have is Christmas. (And Christians who want to take other religious holidays also have to use PTO to do so.) Holiday swapping is a really nice solution that allows just about everyone to take religious holidays without using PTO. And those who do not observe any religious holidays can keep to the regular holiday schedule.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Honestly, we can also “swap” holidays at my work–it’s not formal, but if your manager approves (read: you tell them that you’re going to work on holiday X but take day Y off), it’s fine. I’ve done this when 4th of July falls on a Wed–just worked the day and took an alternate day off.

        1. can't decide on a name*

          Easter is a Sunday, so most offices are closed anyway? If you mean Good Friday, that’s not a federal holiday (in the US).

    4. ariel*

      This plus a couple of floating holiday days seems like the most equitable and fair way to do it. How cool to have such a flexible employer, mine would lose its mind over this level of accomodation I think.

    5. Iris Eyes*

      I really like the idea of setting them at the beginning of the year because then you don’t run into as many issues with “well I can’t give you your religious holiday off because we need coverage and so-and-so already asked for that day” its a pretty fair way for people to get days off that are deeply important to them and be able to schedule their vacation time without worry about getting it cancelled or asked to move it for the religious observance of another.

      1. anony*

        I like this a lot! Get a set number of holidays, swap+schedule them at the beginning of the year, but no need to get them *approved* by anyone. With an honor system expectation that you won’t use that flexibility just to escape working on the hell days when all hands are needed.

    6. QED*

      I was also going to suggest something like this! I think in addition, if people have issues with the Saturday/Sunday weekend for religious reasons, if the employer was able to accommodate, people could also be able to swap out other days for one of the traditional weekend days (if every week isn’t possible from a workflow perspective, maybe at least sometimes).

      I also realize that public schools are generally closed on federal holidays and that this swap system may leave people needing to find childcare so they can work on these school holidays, but even with that, I do think it’s the most fair system. I did want to flag though.

    7. Beth*

      In a previous career, I used to offer to swap holidays — in particular, I often worked on July 4th in exchange for taking off Samhain (Halloween). (I’m pagan.) The office was utterly empty and I got SO MUCH WORK DONE.

    8. Lorax*

      My organization does this too, though it’s not framed explicitly as “holiday swapping.” Because my organization works closely with state and federal agencies, we get state and federal holidays off, but people are just allowed to work holidays and bank those hours for later, regardless of their intended use. I often work holidays and use the time when it works better for me, even though it’s not due to religious reasons for me.

      I’d note, this only works because we can all work from home and asynchronously… this would be harder to swing in a lot of service sector and manual labor jobs, where either a physical location has to be open and/or you have to work as part of a team.

  10. orchivist*

    two thoughts:
    My grandfather was part of a small independent medical practice. It was him (orthodox Jewish), a Hindu doctor, and an Irish Catholic doctor. They arranged within themselves to always cover each others’ important holidays. It did mean my grandpa was working when my mom was on school vacation but it was what worked best for everyone involved.

    I have frequently volunteered to work the week between christmas and New Years in exchange for getting my holidays (Jewish) off. My supervisors have generally let me do this even though the Jewish holidays are first so in some senses I’m “borrowing” floating holidays. In some jobs this wasn’t possible because the worksite closed but for most there was at least like, filing or annual upkeep tasks that could be done.

  11. Eldritch Office Worker*

    We always just let people take religious holidays without using their PTO. This year a lot of holidays are on weekends so it’s not a big thing, last year it was more disruptive but not to the point we’d change it.

      1. Malarkey01*

        My workplace works the same as Eldrich and we do not offer days to others in the same way that only people having children get parenting leave or someone with a medical condition gets paid medical leave (different from sick).

  12. T. Wanderer*

    I’m a big fan of floating holidays — I worked somewhere where they really functioned as “vacation days you can’t carry over”, so I used them for Passover/High Holidays and other people treated them as regular PTO. That still means that people who only celebrate federally-recognized holidays get some extra, but if PTO is generous that isn’t a huge issue imho.

    1. I Have RBF*

      If the place doesn’t have a functional unlimited vacation policy, this is the next best thing.

      The good thing about floating holidays that don’t carry over is that they force people to use them or lose them, so they have to take at least that amount of time off. I work in a field where people regularly brag about not taking vacation and working 60 hour weeks, and it causes burnout problems. Forcing people to take a minimum number of holidays in a year, regardless of religion, is a good idea, IMO. They may tried to bank their PTO so they can get a payout if/when they quit or are laid off, but floating holidays have to be used that year.

      IMO, a holiday does not have to be religious. It can just be a celebration of the fact that you are alive.

  13. AnotherSarah*

    To me, there’s also the question of whether holiday PTO is more similar to a vacation day – – so people who aren’t celebrating a particular holiday could just take the day to relax, or do whatever – – or sickleave, where you can only use it if you need it. I’m just thinking about the fact that for many people, holiday observance, is not at all relaxing, recharging time. There’s often quite a lot of work to be done, and while I’m not sure what a solution is, it might get on my nerves if I had to use all of my floating days to sit in synagogue, while my colleagues could take them as beach days.

    1. Yecats*

      This always bothers me about any solution where everyone gets some extra days to use yet Christian holidays are still off for everyone. It means people who celebrate those holidays get “extra” days compared to those who don’t.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        That was the system that got locked in when the federal government decided to make Christmas a federal holiday.

      2. umami*

        But wouldn’t those Christian holiday days be extra vacation days for those who don’t observe the holidays? I feel like I am missing something when this is discussed, but I’m not sure what it is! I like the idea of floating days off because it’s a matter of priority. if you want to use them for a religious holiday because that’s important to you, that’s great, and if someone else wants to use it for a beach day, that’s also great!

        1. AnotherSarah*

          Maybe but since they’re baked in I’m not sure. And they’re also school holidays so for people w kids that might pose an issue. But perhaps!

          1. amoeba*

            But that’s generally a good thing, isn’t it? At least all parents I know tend to be happy when their time off aligns with school holiday because childcare!

            And yeah, I guess the problem is that you cannot chose the dates? But treating it as if Christians get extra days that nobody else has makes no sense to me, either – rather that they’re more flexible about when to take time off.

        2. Hillary*

          I think people are talking past each other because there are two ways to think about PTO.

          Option 1: it’s paid time away for whatever reason. And those reasons are often not “fun”
          Option 2: it’s vacation time and supposed to be fun, restorative, etc.

          Companies mostly think about equity from the option 1 perspective. As an employer I don’t want to know why someone’s taking time off. It’s become muddier for employees as vacation and sick time are combined.

          At my former employers schedules were often driven by how many people wanted off and how busy it was. Shutting the factories down at the end of December was easy because it’s usually a slow time for manufacturing and it made year end inventory much, much easier. If July 4 was on a Wednesday they might shut down two days before or two days after because so many employees wanted a long weekend.

        3. fish*

          But it’s not a vacation day on my schedule, of my choice. I can’t combine it with my summer trip to France, or use it for my cousin’s wedding, etc.

    2. orchivist*

      I hear you on the last point!

      I went to a grad school with a lot of Jews (Brandeis), but in a department where the assumption was non-religious-ness (like chem or math). The Jewish holidays were university days off but the professors acted like we had a free day off to do homework and many assigned us extra work those weeks to “make up for” lost class. My department was screwed up in a bunch of ways but that was one that was completely unexpected to me

      Similarly I grew up in a school district where we got one day of rosh hashannah and yom kippur off and all of the nonjewish kids would be like “lol I love these random days off” whereas I’d come to school the next day feeling terrible because I spent the day fasting and repenting :P

      1. Regina Philange*

        That’s interesting to hear what it was like in a stem grad program there bc I went there for undergrad and we never got homework, etc over the Jewish holidays but we did over Christmas and would sometimes have finals the afternoon of Christmas Eve, which was also really unfair.

        1. metadata minion*

          What homework did you get assigned over Christmas? Brandeis is closed for almost a month over December/January (so you could presumably just do your homework on a day that wasn’t a holiday) and most classes aren’t year-long anyway.

    3. jalapeno*

      To me it seems more analogous to sick days: Some people just need more of them than others. Using vacation time when you’re sick (either because you’ve run out of sick leave or because it’s combined at your employer) feels unfair in the same way that using vacation time for your religious holidays feels unfair.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        To some extent, sick time is more of a pay-it-forward kind of thing. If Alice’s workload is increased for a time because Bob is out for surgery, well, maybe next year it will be Alice who’s out sick for a couple of weeks. Or Bob will have to cover for Carol. There are going to be some people who are always going to need more time off for medical issues, but for the most part it’s likely to come out in the wash over time.

        But if you offer extra time off for religious holidays, then you’re systematically expecting more hours of work per year from the same people year after year. That seems kind of off to me.

    4. BB*

      But that’s the religious choice you are making. As an atheist that doesn’t sign on for those kinds of activities, am I due less “relaxing” time because of your religious beliefs being demanding? PTO is for your personal decisions. If I choose not to relax and go build a barn instead, I don’t see why that would be the companies problem that I chose not to recharge and relax on that day.

      1. AnotherSarah*

        I’ll wager that many people don’t see them as choices, or see them as a choice the way a knee replacement is a choice.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Which is fine, but the bottom line is that “giving days for REASONS” will likely always exclude someone (atheists don’t take religious holidays, child-free people don’t have to worry about school schedules, etc), and you don’t want to be giving ‘extra’ days to anyone for any reason. Everyone gets the same number of days. Using a ‘personal days that don’t roll over’ and ‘vacation’ separate buckets seems to be the fairest way. If someone is then mad because they had to use 3 of those for their religious observations while I, an atheist, took vacation with them–that’s not a problem that work can solve.
          Think of it like our favorite poor employee with the leap day birthday–we were all outraged because she was literally missing out on a day off and a GC everyone else got. Everyone gets the same number of days! How you use it has to be up to you!

        2. Mel99*

          Lots of things fall into that category. If you have lots of children, a larger family (lots of birthdays), a time-consuming hobby or volunteer role, etc. etc. you’re going to have less free time, and arguably it’s not really a choice (except admittedly the last one).

          I think people should all have the same amount of PTO and be able to spend it as they wish – floating holidays and flexibility are great too. Some people might have to spend it on a religious festival, others might have to spend it on their childrens’ birthdays or flying back to visit their parents in the country they immigrated from, or whatever.

          I guess I don’t see why religious holidays would be different from any of the other many obligations that people spend their PTO on. Especially when depending where they work they might well make more money in the long run – in every job I’ve had people working Christmas or Sundays get paid extra, which people who aren’t devout Christians are going to be more willing to do.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Right? I mean, I can go on a two week trip to Italy and come back and have a coworker say “must be nice, I have to use a week to go see my family and a week to see spouses’s family, wish I could go to Italy” but that doesn’t mean that coworker should get more time so they can go to Italy for two weeks. We all choose how we use our days off. The fairest thing is to make sure you have a generous allotment and then people use them how they use them. Work should not be in the business of caring about what it is you do with your days off (medical accommodations excepted, based on coverage of work duties needed during that time off). They just need to give you a decent amount of them.

        3. JM60*

          Many people who tithe don’t see it as a choice, but the fact that they spend their money on religion doesn’t mean that they should get more of it (for the same work). Similarly, the fact that someone spends more of their paid time off on religion doesn’t mean that they should get more of it (for the same work).

    5. high holidays grump*

      Super agree with this!! I’m taking tomorrow off for Rosh Hashanah and the Monday for Yom Kippur off and a coworker made a comment about how great it is that I get two 3-day weekends in a row and it’s like no actually I get NO weekends for the next two weeks because I will be traveling home, helping my family prepare for multiple Thanksgiving-level family gatherings, going to services, fasting, etc. Yom Kippur especially feels much more akin to bereavement leave than anything else… When am I supposed to do my laundry and see my friends and the usual weekend stuff? Very seriously considering taking an extra PTO day the day after YK just to recover haha.

      1. Another Academic Librarian too*

        this. I came to write exactly this. People who are Jewish are less than 1% of the population in Minnesota. My first year here, I was shocked that student hiring day was scheduled on Yom Kippur. No student workers for you, Academic Librarian. The first day of school a few years ago was on Rosh Hashanah. What?!(Brooklyn transplant) Imagine being a 1st year student in College and missing those days in classes. And being told you are still responsible for the work, are totally lost and behind in class, maybe lose your seat in a required class. OR required to meet with the department chair or dean to get an excusal. Imagine being an untenured instructor asking to reschedule or cancel classes the first week of school.
        I am constantly trying to explain to non-Jews to imagine the first day of school on Christmas day.
        It is exhausting.

        1. Blarg*

          My senior year of HS in Colorado (in the 90s), homecoming was scheduled on Yom Kippur. They reluctantly agreed to postpone the start of the dance by 30 min to after break fast. There just weren’t enough of us for anyone to really care. I designed the float that won first prize in the parade but I wasn’t there to see it.

        2. Jiminy Cricket*

          Yep. That year they generously waived the “lose your seat if you miss the first day of classes” rule if you got an exemption from your profession, but those kids missed the first day or two of their college career.

          These days are knowable from now into eternity! They are not surprises.

        3. Ex Assistant*

          I’m also in Minnesota and I used to be an executive assistant to a Director who was Jewish. I had to put the holidays on everyone’s calendars and remind them over and over again why quarterly planning could not happen on those days. I’m not Jewish, but I was like… THIS IS NOT THAT HARD!

  14. LB*

    At my previous place of work, we had 10 religious holidays (which were a mix between Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim holidays) and everybody got those off. Then we had an additional day which was dubbed “floating holiday” and basically you would be able to choose when to take it based on an inclusive list of other religiuous holidays (from a vast number of religions). I think it was a good compromise. Perhaps I could suggest some further improvements like bumping up the number of “floating holidays” to 2 or 3 days a year. Also you might consider including some non-religious days in the list, for example for Europeans 1st of May is kind of a big deal as it is our Labour Day.

    1. amoeba*

      Eh. I’m European and yes, that’s typically a nice holiday here to take a long weekend or whatever, but certainly nothing people would be upset about not being able to “celebrate” when you’re living abroad!

      Also, typically, it’s either “just a day off” (for most people) or a (left-wing) day for political marches for worker’s rights etc.! Which is great but only makes sense if you’re actually in a place where marches are happening – there would be no point in getting the day off if you’re living in a country where that’s not a thing.

  15. Marketing Ninja Unicorn*

    Full disclosure: I celebrate the Christian religious holidays.

    But I’m on my org’s DEI committee, and my suggestion was to look at the holidays people get off that are nominally tied to a Christian religious holiday–i.e., we’re off the Friday before and Monday after Easter, but we call it ‘Spring Break’; we’re closed the week between Christmas and New Year’s, but it’s called ‘Winter Break. (We are education-adjacent.)

    So we took those two days at Easter, five days for the week between Christmas and New Year’s*, said, ‘OK, here are five PTO days that everyone gets that are tied to a nominal religious holiday,’ and we gave everyone six additional ‘holidays’ in their PTO bucket. If you use it for a holiday like Yom Kippur or Eid or Rosh Hashana, great! If you use it for All Saints’ Day, or All Hallow’s Eve, great!

    It does get coded differently in our time off system as a tracking metric, so we can see on an annual basis if we need to adjust our all-staff holiday days.

    *We didn’t count NYE/NYD in our count because they’re independent of religion, while also acknowledging the Lunar New Year is a religious holiday and they can use their holidays PTO for that.

    People are still using PTO for the holidays, but at least we added PTO to the bucket, so I feel like that makes it fairer.

    1. sea salt bagel*

      The holidays Easter and Christmas are Christian holidays, not “nominal religious holidays.” Even people who self-identify as “non-religious” that celebrate these holidays are celebrating Christian holidays. When December 25 or a Friday and Monday in the spring are offered as a “seasonal break,” personally, I find it a little aggravating because it serves to cloak (very clumsily) what’s really being observed, in a way that further acknowledges Christian holidays as being the “normal, universal” holidays rather than the holidays of a specific (majority) religious/cultural group. This phenomenon is often hard for people who celebrate Christmas to see (as the majority group) and is likely part of why people who celebrate Christmas were asked to sit this one out.

      1. Mill Miker*

        Easter and Christmas are Christian holidays, but the days off are “nominally tied to religious holidays” because in many places they’re legally mandated, and therefore if the actual Christian holiday falls on a weekend, the legally-required government holiday detaches from the religious holiday and moves to the nearest weekday.

        I’m not saying that makes anything more fair, since they are so biased to cater to Christians, but when the days are encoded in employment laws, the company has to offer them regardless of anyone involved’s religious beliefs.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        But what is described is a good system: take the Christian holidays and turn them into floating holidays, so everyone can take them on different days, as appropriate.

    2. I forgot what I put here*

      NYE and NYD are not “independent of religion”, they are based on the Christian calendar. I can assure you that my Orthodox Jewish family members do not celebrate NYE/NYD on that date.

      1. yvve*

        actually, arent those dates based on *Roman* religion? although they were adopted and popularized by Christians

        1. OfOtherWorlds*

          Yes, and beginning the year on January 1 was a deliberate decision by Cromwell to replace a Catholic holiday (Lady Day, March 25) by reviving an aincent pagan holiday.

  16. CheesePlease*

    Floating Holidays!

    Each employee is given 4 (or 5) floating holidays they must select at the beginning of the year. This way, individuals can select their birthday or wedding anniversary or something else personally important to them, in addition to official holidays (so don’t have a list of “approved” holidays). This also benefits individuals who have children in school with spring break or other things that are easy to plan at the beginning of the year.

    Companies must also be mindful of federal holidays where the office is closed, and determine if they will have a “winter break” around Christmas that is not a company sponsored specific holiday for Christmas.

    1. umami*

      I like this! You said essentially what I was thinking, that the floating days could correlate to dates that are meaningful to the employee, whether it’s a holiday, personal event, or … whatever.

    2. Spoopy Monster*

      I love the way you worded this, because that’s the key to it being fair/equitable right there, IMO. It’s not whether observing a specific day is “hard” or “fun,” it’s whether observing that day is meaningful to the person. If you choose a religious fast day because that observation is important to you, you are getting something from it that you feel is meaningful and important. If you take a day to sit on the beach and recharge, you are doing something meaningful to you.
      Same with celebrating a birthday or anniversary or seeing a friend you haven’t seen in years or building a house for someone less fortunate, those are activities you choose because they are most meaningful to you. Everyone should have the same number of days to do those things.
      As adults we are able to prioritize which activities are most meaningful to us. The same number of holidays available to everyone whether by adding floaters or allowing swaps, allows everyone the same amount of time for doing something important to them. Theoretically, if you have Christmas off but don’t celebrate religiously, that’s an extra fun day not tied to a holiday for you. If you don’t observe a religion your time to do something meaningful is not any less important than a religious person’s, so giving paid days strictly for any religious holiday seems not right. People can be highly spiritual without subscribing to any particular religion.

  17. Punk*

    My company is global, and since other countries (even our beloved Country Of Europe) often have official state religions/don’t distinguish between religious holidays and government closures (I hope that makes sense) it would be unreasonable to not follow Christian holidays. We give three floating holidays a year (which still kinda gives Christians more vacation days, since they don’t need to use them for holidays) and switch up other days off. Can you make election day a holiday? Add in extra days to turn more holidays into long weekends? Maybe the whole week of Thanksgiving or taking off the whole block between Christmas and New Year’s Day? In my experience, the Christmas thing rankles non-Christians less when it’s a whole chunk of time rather than having the weird schedule disruptions that center around only taking off that day in the middle of the week.

    Does it have to be a hard policy? Perhaps people could just have paid holidays that are granted when requested and don’t pull from PTO. You’re talking about small minority groups; if it’s only a handful if people, it can be arranged on an individual basis.

    1. amoeba*

      I like election day as a holiday!

      But yes, here in my part of Europe, there isn’t really a choice because you have to close on public holidays, by law. Unfortunately, most of those are still Christian, even the more obscure ones that nobody really celebrates. There are a few secular ones, like 1st of May, and I think more are being introduced in some places, which is great!

      In general, just having secular holidays for everybody and then increasing the amount of PTO/add “floating holidays” also seems like a good solution?

      1. Kayem*

        Yeah, the division I work for is based in the US, but the company itself is based in a European country. So even though my division didn’t want to have Christmas eve and day as mandatory days off, the company as a whole has to. With my previous employer, they were based in the US, but all their clients were in China. So we all had Chinese state holidays off but had to use PTO for US holidays. Which honestly, was pretty fantastic because I finally had a built-in excuse for avoiding Christmas parties.

      2. Beth**

        When I worked for the UK election regulator, we got an extra paid hour on election day to allow us to vote. However, much of the time I worked there, I was somewhere else in the country on election day doing election day related work. I would vote by mail in advance, which didn’t have to be done during working hours and just pocket the extra paid hour to use some other time.

  18. Becca*

    Honestly, this was always an issue for me (a Jew) until I moved to the UK and now have 40 days of leave a year. I think that there is just no way around the fact that Christmas and New Year’s (and in some places Good Friday/Easter Monday) are public holidays in most “Western” countries, so places will always be closed and people get them off for free. It’s also coupled with the fact that people seem to not understand that most observant Jews *don’t care* about having “the holidays” (ie Christmas/New Years and the week in between off, even if you don’t have to use PTO) and would much rather have the time to take in for Jewish Holidays instead.

    1. amoeba*

      I do think the more PTO you have, the less of an issue most people will have with it (although it’s still not fair – but a few days out of 40 are much better than a few days out of 10!)

    2. Magenta*

      Are you including bank holidays in that 40? If not can I come work at your place? That sounds like loads! I’m in the UK and my 30 + bank holidays is still more than a lot of people here.

    3. dip the apple in the money*

      Yeah, for real, let’s say I got off between Xmas and New Year’s, what exactly am I doing in that time? The weather’s too bad to travel, the kids aren’t off school anyway, and it’s cold!

      1. Calpurrnia*

        If the weather’s bad where you are, just go to Hawaii for the week or something!

        (Being sarcastic here mostly, because issues with money and privilege and so forth affecting one’s ability to be a snowbird.)

        BUT to be fair, “the weather’s too bad to travel” is a little bit of an oxymoron. If you don’t like the weather where you are, then… travel to a place with different weather. :P

  19. mango chiffon*

    My office does 3 “personal days” per year which are basically floating holidays that people can use for religious observances or anything else. Another thing my office has stated, is that there are certain holidays that we are not permitted to schedule large group meetings or events (Yom Kippur the notable one coming up as an example). We have a set list of these that are created, and have created an outlook .ics set up with the dates. Sometimes can be difficult if set in advance where the dates are not necessarily set (Eid is an example), but this has been helpful this year.

    I will note as someone who is Indian American, we are not religiously required to not work for things like Diwali or Holi (I don’t even celebrate Holi since it’s not from my part of India so I wouldn’t consider taking time off for that), which is different for Jewish High Holidays from my understanding.

    1. mango chiffon*

      Also the only Christian holiday that we get as a full office closure is Christmas, but that gets wrapped into the end of year closure from Christmas to New Years. All other office closing holidays are non-religious holidays like President’s Day or Thanksgiving.

    2. Ashley*

      The calendar holiday list is huge. Not allowing meetings or other large events to be scheduled during designated holidays makes a huge difference to allowing people to take the time they need regardless of how it is allotted. This should be a bare minimum standard in addition to trying to be equitable in time off.

      1. mango chiffon*

        It’s definitely made a huge difference this year. It was an initiative brought by our DEI group and I’ve found it valuable, and I know the large number of Jewish colleagues I have definitely appreciate that they don’t have to be concerned about missing something major that day. And we include things like Lunar New Year and Diwali on this list as well.

    3. Sophronisba*

      Yeah, my boss (whom I adore 90% of the time) scheduled a major department retreat for Yom Kippur last year and she just could not understand why it was so problematic. She kept saying, “But I go to work when it’s Holi!” and it took me forever to convince her that YK was just different.

    4. a raging ball of distinction*

      Thank you for sharing the “off limits for meetings” holiday calendar! I’m pushing to implementing that for my org at work :)

  20. Johanna Cabal*

    I worked briefly at an office that allowed staff to work holidays like Christmas (or the official federal holiday if the actual holiday fell during the weekend) in exchange for other holidays so no one would have to dip into their PTO (vacation and sick leave was combined*). The only requirement was not to respond to emails because the owner did not want to set an expectation that staff would respond to emails during holidays, so these were usually low-key “catch-up on everything” days for the most part.

    (*While I liked the holiday policy, I did not like that you couldn’t use PTO at all during your first three months. Sorry to all my co-workers who caught my awful cold!)

    1. Cinnamon Hair*

      Just popping in to say I love this and would totally do it! I’m not sure how much it really solves the holiday issue, but I would love a day at work that I could just spend doing things without being constantly interrupted by emails and phone calls.

      1. workswitholdstuff*

        I always try and take ‘twixmas’ off – just because I travel to my parents, and it’s nice to have a *proper* break at that point of the year to reset before the next one.

        My (now retired) boss however used to love working those days, cos he could get his head down and do grant applications, research, report writing etc without being constantly interrupted by emails and phonecalls…

  21. 2ManyBugs*

    My company has PTO, and sick time, and then additionally they add 2 “floating holidays”. These don’t accrue, everybody gets them, and you can use them at your discretion – whether that’s for your birthday or for Beltane.

    They used to tell people to use them for only birthdays or with a recognized holiday, until they hired me. They rejected me once, my project manager went stomping in and informed them “2ManyBugs is pagan, you have NO IDEA when their holidays are! What are you doing?!” and the policy was updated the next week.

    (Sidenote: I’ve always been open about my religion and there was no ‘outing’ involved here that would have been upsetting.)

    1. This_is_Todays_Name*

      Wow! To me a floating holiday is basically a “personal day” to be taken by choice, whether it’s an actual holiday, birthday, anniversary or “ugh” day and I’ve NEVER had to say “what” I’m taking it FOR. I’m glad they changed that policy!

      1. 2ManyBugs*

        I really think it was just that it had never come up before and they’d never had to think about it! As it stands, they’ve come to appreciate this over the last bunch of years – I take nearly all my time during the summer and fall, and I’m *always* available to work during the end of December, when the place is basically a ghost town.

  22. Menace to Sobriety*

    Where I work, ALL Holidays are “floating” holidays. So, you can choose to work Thanksgiving but take off for your High Holy Day of choice, for example. In your circumstance, I’d institute something similar with every person getting say 10 floating holidays, and using them for the holiday/occasion of their choice. Now, this of course may not work if your office has to generally close on T’giving, Xmas, etc… because of tradition or the type of services you provide, but it’s worth asking for at least a number of “floating holidays” if not “all” of them and then you can pick and choose which are most important for YOU. I would say though, that in general, my non-Christian co-workers took MORE holidays than Christians, who tended to take Thanksgiving (not inherently Christian, but..) and Christmas. Easter is always on Sunday so that wasn’t an issue usually, occasionally devout Catholics might take a Good Friday or Ash Wednesday but in general there really weren’t nearly as many “Christian faith based” holidays. They tended to use them for birthdays and anniversaries, instead. But of course YMMV depending on where you live, etc…

    1. Engineering Mom*

      My husband’s company does this. Employees get X number of holidays to use whenever they want in a calendar year. It works because is it’s 24/7/365 manufacturing, so the office is always open and shift employees are always there. Some people choose to take off the Christian holidays, some take off different religious holidays, some use it for the random holidays that schools are closed to be with their kids, some use it whenever they want to. I like that when the 4th of July falls in the middle of the week, you could choose to work the actual 4th and then take off a Monday or Friday and get a long weekend instead. And if you’re on call over a major holiday you’d like to have off, you don’t lose the day (my husband worked both Christmas Eve and Day last year, took those days off later in the week instead).

      It’d need to be thought through a little differently in an office environment that’s not 365 day operation.

  23. TenseQuiche*

    At my company, we have “floating” holidays- every employee gets 2-3, and we can earn “more” by doing certain things. For example, we’re closed on federal holidays as we’re a federally-run group, but for some holidays, we get together and do things for the community. If you “work” those days doing volunteer work, you get paid as normal for an 8-hour day and also “gain” a floating day to use later on. There are 3-4 opportunities during the year to earn those, which helps, but as someone who is Jew”ish” myself, it does still limit certain things if I don’t want to go volunteer on President’s day or something, and we automatically get the popular “Christian” holidays off, so I’m still using time that other coworkers get to use whenever for holidays.

    1. Doctor Panda PhD*

      As someone who’s partner has floating holidays, I hate them – but that probably has more to do with how his company executes them rather than the concept itself. Essentially, everyone has to work holidays in this model and people only get to pick two holidays off per year. The best part is that people get to pick at a first-come first-serve basis and only so many people can select a holiday. His first year, he had no idea this was the policy, so he worked essentially every holiday except the 4th of July and Labor Day because he was dead last in selecting. They still earn holiday pay for all of the holidays as a way to make up for it, but it’s awful. He already has to request time off two months (MONTHS!) in advance outside of his regular schedule and now we can’t really plan to travel for any holidays. His work is remote but he’d have to lug three computer monitors with him if we wanted to travel while he was still working.

  24. Chocoholic*

    We have 9 holidays that we are closed for Federal Holidays, and then we have 4 additional floating holidays. We can use them for any holiday that is meaningful to us that we are not closed, and if there is nothing like that, we can use them like vacation days. It has worked well for us.

    The holidays are given up front to new staff and the floating holidays are prorated depending on when during the year they start.

    1. ina*

      This has come up a few time and people push back by saying “well, people take less PTO with unlimited PTO” — okay, why don’t we figure out why?? And maybe insert a minimum numbers you have to take? like “you must take at least 7 days PTO off” so people are encouraged to go for it?

        1. I Have RBF*

          This. Unlimited PTO should also have a minimum, so that people don’t do the workaholic martyr thing, and their bosses don’t expect them to. Also, bosses should not be able to deny PTO if the person hasn’t taken any in the last three months.

          The difference between holidays and vacation is that generally people don’t chose when their holidays fall, but can for actual vacation. Fall Equinox is always on a day in September, Rosh Hashanah is determined by the Jewish calendar, etc. So a boss can’t reasonably say “Oh, can you take your High Holy Day at some other time?” whereas they can on generic vacation. Of course, if you bought tickets for a cruise and then your boss canceled your vacation, you would be right to be upset.

    2. Shana125*

      One of my first jobs was in an office that was closed from the day before Christmas to the day after New Year’s, BUT required all employees to use PTO for the entire time (except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). It felt like the assumption was that everyone would want/need those days off anyway. I don’t celebrate Christmas and would have happily worked those days, but I didn’t have a choice. I had to take PTO and it felt really wrong to me – you aren’t allowed to work (because the office is closed), but you’re also forced to use your PTO on specified dates. I hadn’t been at the company long at this point, and hadn’t accrued much vacation time, so I had to use up all of my alloted days for a holiday I don’t celebrate and then wait to accrue more PTO for days I actually wanted to take off.

      At my job now, I get one floating holiday and three personal days (in addition to regular vacation days and sick days). I’m using the floating holiday this year for Yom Kippur.

  25. crookedglasses*

    One strategy that I’ve thought about but haven’t actually implemented anywhere would be going to all floating holidays. So you wouldn’t have universal holidays for Christmas, Thanksgiving, MLK Day, any of them – it would be entirely for each person to choose which 8-12 (or however many fixed holidays there currently are) holidays they wanted to observe each year.

  26. KT*

    My friend just started a new job that is government adjacent but is private sector. Everyone gets Federal Holidays off because the office is closed plus a certain number of holiday days (I think 8) that are the same for everyone in additional to their regular PTO. So each employee determines what counts as a holiday to them. She can use it for religious holidays, her birthday, Arbor day, MLK Day, Universal Day of the Jedi, whatever. She also has her regular PTO for vacations and sick leave that can vary based on senority/time with the company

  27. ina*

    I don’t know if it’s right to frame it as “Christians get a couple of extra days off” when everyone gets those days off – those days aren’t even Christmas (assuming this is what you’re speaking to) for all Christians (those of the Orthodox tradition celebrate a week or two later; a woman I worked with was Orthodox and she also had to take vacation for her culture’s new years, which is one of their most important holidays. Just saying this to interrogate who is prioritized, and why others are not, rather than just saying ‘Christian’ as a broad group).

    Unlimited PTO is the best option for this but it’s too rare. Some companies have a personal day, but only one. The option that would make people complain the least is holiday swapping — work on Christmas to get another day off instead of your choosing. That way, all is equal.

    However, I very much hope we can pass legislation to get important religious holidays for other groups as official/federal days off. Not only is it more reflective of the country, it’s the most equitable solution to this on a systematic level. It’s also a nice way to raise awareness. However, the way people were upset about Juneteenth…hate is a powerfully weird emotion (how the *heck* fights against MORE holidays?)

    1. This_is_Todays_Name*

      The same people who “fight against equity versus equality.” Sigh. Small minded, short-sighted, ignorant people.

    2. H3llifIknow*

      “I don’t know if it’s right to frame it as “Christians get a couple of extra days off” when everyone gets those days off – those days aren’t even Christmas (assuming this is what you’re speaking to) for all Christians”

      I remember being in elementary school and asking my parents why we couldn’t be Jewish because my Jewish friends seemed to get a lot more holidays and days they didn’t have to come to school than I did! Everything is perspective, isn’t it? I don’t really consider very many holidays that I get off as “Christian” other than maybe Xmas, and very few places get any time for Easter. Most of them I think of as “old white man” holidays like President’s Day, Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, etc… but definitely “non-denominational.” I think a set amount of floating holidays or the ability to swap out “mine” for “yours” is the best approach.

      1. H3llifIknow*

        I should also add that as a child, I completely misunderstood everything around Hannukah and thought they were getting 8 days of Christmas gifts!

      2. ina*

        I am trying to figure out if I am missing another explicitly Christian holiday beyond Christmas (Thanksgiving and Columbus day are very adjacent, to be honest, but not explicitly). I know Easter isn’t a holiday, so I think it’s just Christmas that is the issue here (Christmas Eve has never been off for me except on rare occasion). I don’t deny we live in a very Protestant Christian influenced society, but we live in a “no rest for workers” society more. The other holidays I can think of are non-religious ones.

        We need more holidays! Someone mentioned that floating holidays aren’t exactly fair because everyone else gets extra PTO and LW’s statement becomes more true, December Christmas Christians get an extra day off with the schema (Christmas as a default).

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          I think Christmas plus any bonus days that get coded as “Christmas” because that’s the reason for giving them off — think places that give Christmas Eve off, or close offices between Christmas and New Year’s. Only one of those days is Christmas Day, but the rest of them are definitely being given because of Christmas.

    3. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I’d say people who celebrate Christmas on 25 Dec do get a couple extra days off – these people get a free day(s) where the entire workplace is closed, and they don’t have to take PTO for it because it is a federal holiday.

      They then can just celebrate their religious holiday, whereas those who don’t celebrate Christmas have a day off on that isn’t religiously significant to them (which might be more being required to take a random Thursday off). But then those who don’t observe Christmas on that day need to take PTO to observe the days that are religiously significant to them.

      In other words, they often need to choose whether to adhere to their religion or to maintain enough PTO days to go to friend’s weddings or family events or go hiking or stay home and watch Netflix, while Christians who observe Christmas on 25 December (which is the majority in the US) don’t have to make that choice.

    4. Orsoneko*

      I don’t know if it’s right to frame it as “Christians get a couple of extra days off” when everyone gets those days off – those days aren’t even Christmas (assuming this is what you’re speaking to) for all Christians

      I think the “extra couple of days” refers to the paid vacation days, not the Christian holidays. So if everyone gets 15 vacation days and (observant) religious minorities need to use two of those days for religious holidays, then members of the dominant religion (which, for these purposes, would not include Christians like your co-worker) have two extra days to use for non-religious reasons.

      1. ina*

        Ohh, thank you! This makes sense to me now in terms of them not needing to use the PTO. Something wasn’t clicking for me; I think I understood this when people were talking about floating holidays but not in the original context.

  28. Mike Engle*

    The Federal government allows employees to take religious comp time (this requires a grand-boss’s approval), and you have to work off the debt within six months of the holiday, on either side. In theory you can work an extra 15 minutes for a bunch of days to make up the time, but in practice I’ll personally just come in on a benefit day so that I know I’ve “funded” my Yom Kippur in one shot. It’s not really getting an extra holiday because I have to work, but I love the principle of not having to burn personal leave to practice my religion. I’m ok with it!

    1. fueled by coffee*

      Came here to say this! I think this is similar to holiday “swapping” but allows people to make up the time on their own terms, and in increments if need be. Everyone is working the same amount of time overall, but people who need more days off for religious observances can flex their time around them in ways that work for them.

  29. jalapeno*

    There are downsides to unlimited PTO, but one of its biggest advantages is that people can take off as much time as they need for religious holidays, chronic illnesses, etc. Barring that, is it possible to set up some kind of system where religious holidays simply don’t count toward a person’s PTO? That would be hard to formalize at a larger company but might make sense at a smaller one.

    1. Misty_Meaner*

      Having worked at a couple of “big names” that had “unlimited PTO” I hated it. First, there was always either an implicit or explicit understanding that you’d make up that time to the largest extent possible to avoid a hit to “utilization” metrics, etc… And, of course, there are ALWAYS those who abused it. And people who knew they were going to be quitting would take a BUNCH of it, then put in their notice and since they weren’t “in the hole” there was nothing to pay back. Unlimited PTO is great in theory, but both places that had it … it was a disaster in execution.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Unlimited PTO works best when there’s a mininmum requirement of say 3 or 4 weeks.

        Also, I think “unlimited” isn’t really the best term – to me it’s more about the flexibility and not having to worry about being sick, and buckets and so on

    2. UnlimitedTimeOffIsAwful*

      Not true. Unlimited time off still needs to be approved in most places. The first time I worked at a place with unlimited time off I got one day off in 6 months and I only got that because I threw a hussy fit and basically told my boss I hadn’t had any time off the whole time I’d worked there.

      Most places I’ve worked are sufficiently understaffed that the only way I got to use time off was when I hit use it or lose it. Unlimited time off means the employee doesn’t have this lever – and then doesn’t even get paid for the unused time off when they leave because technically you weren’t owed any time off.

      It’s a horrible system for employees.

  30. paige*

    I had a previous employer who had a bank of 5 days specifically for religious leave. It wasn’t floating holidays aka just extra leave for everyone, it was specifically for folks to take for religious observance that the org didn’t offer time off for. We had Christmas time off every year, but folks would use this as needed for Easter/Good Friday, high holidays, Eid, etc. I really liked this because it felt equitable to all religions (though I guess maybe atheists might say differently) and I was even able to use it to go to a shiva once. It was great! Now I’m at an org with unlimited PTO which is also great and works well for taking off the high holidays, but a separate bank of protected leave works too if you’re not able to move to an unlimited policy.

    1. paige*

      One commenter above said something that relates to why I really liked this over a more open floating holidays policy – this policy acknowledged that religious leave is NOT the same as vacation leave, and for me, feels much more akin to sick/caregiver leave or bereavement leave in the sense that it’s a family/community obligation and often a lot of work and not the same as taking your birthday off or other things that folks might use random floating holidays for.

    2. TechWorker*

      Yea… this atheist would absolutely not be impressed :) I get that it’s cultural and not ‘a choice’ but there are other family related obligations that are not religious and also sometimes ‘not a choice’. I would not want to work for a company with that policy.

      1. LJ*

        I think the reason it feels a bit funny is that it starts to get similar to the idea that “single/childless people work holidays” (etc) that we see discussed previously. Single people and atheists (and single atheists :) ) have lives and obligations too.

        But I do get the perspective that it equalizes days between religions, so in that sense it is equitable. It’s a tough question

  31. Rosie*

    My office has 3 buckets of paid leave – Sick leave, PTO, and Holidays. The Holidays used to be paid time for specific designated holidays (4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.). A couple years ago the policy was changed to be more inclusive. The paid Holiday days were upped from 8 to 10 and they could be used for any holiday that holds personal/familial significance, or as extra days around holidays for a longer break period.

  32. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    I like the idea of floating holidays or personal days (e.g. in place of the federal holidays), but the implementations I’ve seen have been problematic (see below). Personally, what has worked best for me is the ability to flex my hours. I’m currently paid monthly and I can move my hours within the calendar month, so I can take a day off and work 8 nine-hour days. It didn’t work well when it was within a half month or biweekly pay period, because often holidays come in clusters or involve family/travel (like taking Dec 24 and 25 off).

    I’d love to see flexible hours WITH floating holidays!

    One place I worked did floating holidays for some of the Federal Holidays. You were allowed to work them (if you could, some people were on site with government clients and literally couldn’t work those days because the site was closed), and then you could later float them. HOWEVER, you could only do it after the holiday had been worked (because people abused it) and two of the days were in the fall (Veteran’s Day and Columbus Day), which didn’t help at all.

  33. Trout 'Waver*

    I work in a STEM field and frontline managers generally have some discretion. I’ve always proactively told my Muslim employees to take Eid off and just not put in for PTO in the HR system.

    I know that not everyone has that level of discretion. But to the managers out there, these types of things generally come with a very low political/organizational cost and have a significant positive impact on team morale.

  34. HHD*

    We (UK, nonprofit) moved from fixed public holidays (which typically include the major Christian festivals) to floating public holidays that you can book whenever. We do still have an office closure from 24 December – 2 January, which is mostly for wellbeing reasons, but generally it gives people a bit more to play with in terms of flexibility.

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      I think it’s a slightly separate issue in the UK because several of our public holidays are explicitly CoE, and as a result for a lot of industries our ebb and flow of work is dictated in part by those holidays. I used to work at a non-profit that also closed between Christmas and New Year, in large part because there weren’t enough clients in that period to justify staying open. A large proportion of the client base didn’t identify as Christian, but the things that triggered them to come to us (often in the post) didn’t occur in that period, whereas come January we’d be absolutely rammed.

      I do think the rise in work from home might increase the number of white-collar businesses that allow staff to work over public holidays and save their leave for their own religious holidays, but if you’re in a profession that requires banking services, they’ll still be shut, so some roles just wouldn’t have any work to do on those days. It’s interesting how things have changed for retail and restaurants, which 20 years ago rarely opened on bank holidays – partly for religious reasons, but also partly because the risks of running a primarily cash-based business on days when the banks were shut outweighed the benefits.

    2. JumpSouth*

      Our organisation (also UK) is similar. Out of the 8 annual bank holidays, people can choose 3 to take at a different time that suits them, whether that’s a religious holiday, a special event or just because. We also close between Christmas and New Year so you can’t swap those holidays. I think the rationale is that so many people would take those days off anyway it isn’t financially viable to keep the site open for a few people.

  35. bamcheeks*

    As a non-American, can I ask what is the difference between floating holidays and PTO? They both sound like what I’d call annual leave, so I’m interested in what the distinction is.

    1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Disclosure: I celebrate Christmas.

      I am in the US and after reading the comments I’m also interetsed in the answer to this, because in my 25+ years of working professioanlly, floating holidays have always been treated as an extra day or two of PTO. There aren’t any requirements to using them and employees take them as part of their first PTO of the year because they don’t rollover. Like, they aren’t any different than any other day off.

      1. Filosofickle*

        It so depends on the company how floating holidays are defined. Someone below describes literally swapping a holiday (Christmas for Eid), others are saying it’s a free day that can be applied to any chosen non-standard holiday. I had a another usage at one company — floating holidays could be tacked on to a regular holiday to make it a longer. So I didn’t need any other religious holidays but I could take an extra freebie day adjacent to July 4th and have a really long weekend. (My guess, in hindsight, that usage was an allowance for the non-observant among us. All company leadership was Jewish and they may have used their days for high holidays but everyone got to use the day somehow.)

        1. doreen*

          It definitely depends on the definition of “floating holiday” . My employer paid us for 12 holidays per year but only closed for 10 of them. The other two, we could take whenever but the floating holidays expired the day before the same holiday the next year. So if one floating holiday was Election Day, 11/7/23 that floating holiday would expire 11/4/24

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      If PTO rolls over, PTO can roll over but floating holidays are use-or-lose.

      If PTO doesn’t roll over, I think they’re fully interchangeable.

    3. H3llifiknow*

      PTO (paid time off ) is typically synonymous with “vacation” or “leave”. It’s generally not taken for holidays as those are typically predetermined days off for everyone (Thanksgiving, President’s Day, MLK Day, etc…) Floating holidays allow you to “swap” a holiday you maybe don’t observe for one you do. So, I’d work on President’s Day, or Christmas, if possible but take off for Eid, etc.. and put the Holiday charge code on my timesheet for Eid and regular work charge for Xmas or President’s Day.

    4. LB*

      Floating holidays don’t carry over to next year. Let’s say you have two days per year, you can’t take zero one year and then ask to take 4 the year after. Also, in some places you can choose your floating holiday(s) from a list of days.

    5. Em from CT*

      I don’t know how everyone else thinks about it, but I suspect the difference is that PTO might roll over (either all or in part) while floating holidays probably can only be used in the calendar year.

    6. Fourth and Inches*

      The main difference at my company is that unused PTO will get paid out if you leave, but floating holidays will not.

    7. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I think you’re in the UK, right? Aren’t bank holidays different from annual leave? PTO=paid time off for vacation, and holidays are Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Labor Day, etc., usually matching local government closures. And sick leave is yet another bucket. Companies that have “unlimited PTO” have eliminated the categories and it’s just all time off.

      The idea of a floating holiday is a “holiday bucket” day off that is used for not officially recognized days. So if your company doesn’t offer Martin Luther King day, you can take that. Or if they don’t offer the Friday after Thanksgiving, you can take that. Or if you want to observe a religious day, you can use it for that. I think the problem with floating holidays is they are usually pretty stingy, only 1-2 days.

      1. Bit o' Brit*

        Legally, no. Companies in the UK are required to give a minimum of 28 days leave, but most companies are closed for the 8 bank holidays so advertise their leave entitlements as e.g. 23 days, either implicitly or explicitly “plus bank holidays”. I’m pretty sure those 28 days aren’t allowed to be carried over or otherwise reduced (e.g. buy-back schemes) either.

        1. Bit o' Brit*

          I’m wrong abot carrying it over:

          If a worker gets 28 days’ leave, they can carry over a maximum of 8 days.

          1. Beth**

            It’s also the case in the UK that if you leave an employer, you are legally entitled to get paid out for annual leave accrued but not taken.

            The biggest difference between the US and UK though is the treatment of sick leave. But that’s not entirely germane to this thread.

    8. Mystery Mongoose*

      Where I work at least, we have a set number of hours for PTO. Prior to a merger, we used that amount for *all* days off: Vacation, Sick, and Holidays. In some ways that may seem like the equitable way to do it as everyone has the same number of days off, and when/how you use those days is up to you, but since the office was physically closed during Federal holidays, it favored observant or culturally Christian individuals since you didn’t have to request those days off.

      After the merger, our PTO is just for vacation/sick time and we get an official number of Holidays which consists of the Federal holidays plus a few extras. The really nice thing though was that our PTO hours didn’t change… so what used to be 3 weeks vacation + two weeks of Holiday time turned into 5 weeks vacation and a little over two weeks of Holidays (a huge increase). But the other super great thing is that you don’t actually have to take the Holiday on the day itself. In practice, the number of Holidays is also a bank – and you just code that day as a Holiday and specify what Federal (or extra) day you’re taking – so they’re all basically floating.

    9. bamcheeks*

      Thanks everyone! I’d forgotten the thing where holiday means any kind of break/vacation for us, and means a more generally shared special day like a religious celebration or a public holiday in the US. :D so yes, if it’s specifically tied or associated with religious festivals or public holidays, and isn’t just holiday-holiday.

    10. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

      Our floating holidays have to be taken as full days and do not roll over.
      Our PTO can be taken in any increment and you can roll over up to 40 hours of it.

  36. Orange Highlighter*

    I worked at a hospital (in an office role, not patient care) and there were no holidays off, so everyone had to use their PTO for all holidays. Makes it fair!

    1. umami*

      Yes, my first career was in journalism, so there were no holidays off. I now work in higher ed and struggle to take vacation time because it seems like we are closed all the time, we have so many scheduled days off!

    2. This_is_Todays_Name*

      As long as you’re given a generous amount of PTO to take for holidays AND an occasional vacation, that’s great. But if someone ONLY gets say 2-3 weeks of PTO, and 10 of those days are going to have to be used for holidays, well… I’d not be thrilled with that.

    3. Gyne*

      This is what I was going to say. In medicine we provide coverage 24/7, so any holidays or weekend days you need off you just arrange coverage with your partners. If you’re all the same religion, you alternate who works the holidays.

  37. Casey*

    My company just has a bank of PTO and there are no days when the office is officially closed. Everyone can take their PTO when they need. Obviously the legal and Christian holidays are pretty quiet because most people take off, but some people don’t. As an Orthodox Jew, this works out decently for me.

    I will say though, that for me personally, it’s never really enough PTO unless I negotiate more, which I did before starting my current job. For example, coming up we have Sukkot. Yes, the main holiday days are on the weekend this year, which is great. But my kids are off of school for a week and a half, I have family visiting, and I’m cooking and hosting the equivalent of 8 Thanksgiving dinners for 11+ people each meal. So yeah, my husband and I both take turns working here and there but I do have to take off for some. And it’s the same thing for Passover, times a million because of the food restrictions. Plus all the shorter holidays. And to add to that, even though I don’t celebrate Christian holidays, my kids don’t have school so I end up having to take off.

    I don’t think there is a fair way to handle this besides giving everyone lots of PTO. Sukkot and Passover may be my reasons why I need PTO, but everyone has their own valid reasons.

    And just to add- I don’t work in a customer facing role, so it doesn’t put work on others when I’m out. It’s on me to be prepared beforehand and to deal with the backlog when I get back. For people in customer facing roles or more time sensitive roles, this is even more challenging.

  38. Eeb18*

    I worked for a small organization that let employees swap Christmas for another religious holiday or day of personal significance. It was fantastic – the office was officially closed on Christmas but I could work from home that day, a day where I had no other plans, and instead take off a Jewish holiday, or take off the anniversary of the day my dad passed away, which is a day of deep personal significance to me.

    1. DameB*

      Same at office — you can just arrange to swap days. So some folks take off Yom Kippur or Eid and then work on Christmas Day (the only Christian holiday we get off).

  39. Engineer*

    My company technically closes for 11 days throughout year, but that just means the offices are closed. We’ve supported hybrid schedules since before Covid, so with a little coordination on workload people are able to work from home without using PTO that way. Our PTO is also just one bucket, which sucks a bit for sick leave but works well enough for this sort of situation. Sure, there’s technically not enough days for full observance for some holidays, but that’s a larger issue with US leave policies.

    My particular office is pretty diverse, and so far there’s been no issues with people taking their religion’s holidays off. Just as long as their supervisors know they won’t be available and people coordinate workloads, it’s been smooth.

    1. Engineer*

      Replying to myself as I didn’t see Alison’s comment until the page refreshed with my comment, I myself don’t celebrate Christmas or other religious holidays. As long as I know when my supervisor is going to be out and who else I can talk to if something comes up, our PTO practice I described above works well. I just tell my timecard program not to automatically add PTO hours and it’s fine.

  40. iotarank*

    At my company, we get paid holidays on a schedule, PTO that is accrued with each paycheck, and 7 Wellbeing & Diversity Days, which you get en bloc on January 1 regardless of tenure. These can be used for anything – I usually use one to take my birthday off, for example.

  41. Veronica*

    A former employer of mine had all holidays, vacation, and sick time lumped into one PTO account and you could take those days whenever you wanted to. I had a Jehovah’s Witness on my team who did not celebrate any holidays or birthdays – he worked through Christmas and New Year’s and then took 2 weeks off for a ski vacation in February. Almost no one took the random state & federal holidays off, preferring to take, say, a whole week for Thanksgiving or extra vacation. Of course, we were also able to roll those days over or just cash them in too, so that employer was a little different. If your PTO balance got to a certain point, the company would just pay it out as it was earned on every paycheck to limit future liability.

  42. Turanga Leela*

    This doesn’t work for all fields or jobs, but my office makes it easy to work on holidays when the office is formally closed. We can either work from home or come into the office; we all have keys. There’s no expectation that we do this, but I’ve done it many times.

    As an exempt government employee, I get 1.5x comp time for work on holidays. (Again, this wouldn’t work or be legal for everyone, but other jobs could pay bonuses or overtime for holiday work.) I can use that time to take off other days that are more meaningful or convenient to me. So if I were to work a full day on Christmas, I’d get 1.5 days of leave that I could use for religious observance or just for vacation.

  43. MHB*

    A company where I worked just had a single category of lumped vacation/holiday/PTO/annual leave – whatever you wanted to call it. (Sick/illness leave was a separate category.) Made things simple and equitable.

  44. Dee*

    I think to be most equitable, companies would have to institute “floating holidays” and give everyone a set # of days (say 10). The office would be “open” on all holidays and employees would have to take a floating holiday if they wanted to take off on say, Christmas or Rosh Hashana or Eid. To stay equitable, the company would have to be OK with approving everyone’s time off on these days.
    The company could keep their federal holiday schedule and continue to close for everyone on the non-religious holidays.

  45. Not Mindy*

    My employer has 9 paid holidays and we are frontloaded with 5 floating holidays on top of those.
    The only difference between floating holidays and regular PTO is that you can’t roll over floating holidays. They can be taken whenever you’d like throughout the year, whether for a holiday or just a day off.
    I think that this works well. We also accrue 15 days of PTO throughout the year as new hires, and it goes up from there. It’s not the most generous PTO but I’m pretty happy with it.

  46. Anonymous for this one*

    It’s a difficult question.

    I’ve only worked at one place that gave any time off for Easter (we got Good Friday, largely because we managed retirement plans and the NYSE closes on Good Friday, which meant that nothing happened in participant retirement accounts). Every other place I’ve worked at in the past 50 years only gave us Christmas, which is a federal holiday.

    I also worked in fund raising for a Jewish women’s membership organization that observed all the Jewish Holidays, and I do mean ALL. I think it was somewhere in the neighborhood of eight paid days off for them.

    I have vivid memories of a member berating me because she’d called the office the day before and it was closed, me telling her that the previous day was Shemini Atzeret, and hearing dead silence on the phone. As an Episcopalian, it wasn’t a holiday that I was familiar with before I worked there. I’d only heard of Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Hannukah up to that point. Anyway, it had never occurred to her that an office, even a Jewish one, might close on that day. Maybe it was because of her experience in the workplace, where it was difficult to take all the holidays off. And that’s unfortunate. It shouldn’t be that difficult.

    But how, short of unlimited PTO for everyone, do you deal with the fact that some religions observe more holidays than others that require adherents to not work and/or to attend services?

  47. Annika Hansen*

    I don’t have an answer. To me, the most difficult part is that for my job, a day the office is closed is very different than a day off. When the office is closed, work does not pile up. I do not have to worry about missing something important. We close for two Christian holidays: Christmas Eve and Christmas, but we don’t get any additional time around those holidays. Most positions would not be able to work those days because the office is closed. We do have decent vacation, personal holidays, and sick leave.

  48. Solidarity*

    I recently brought this rigidity up with my employer. They said they gave exactly what the unions negotiated. I asked my union and they said they’d copied the holiday schedule of the largest union in the workplace. I asked the largest union and they said they would only discuss bargaining with their own members.

    As a new multiyear collective agreement was recently signed by the large union, it sounds like nothing is gonna change anytime soon.

  49. RCB*

    At my previous workplace we had 12 sick days per year and no personal days, so I got the policy changed to 10 sick days and the other 2 became multi-cultural/personal days, giving people license to use them however they see fit. We had a diverse workforce from all over the world and I wanted them to be able to celebrate significant events/holidays/celebrations that may be important to them but not line up with our U.S./Christian calendar. We also make it very flexible to use with no questions asked. I am not religious at all but what is important to me are birthdays, so one year I used my 2 days to travel to see my grandma for her 90th birthday and most recently used them for my own birthday.

  50. No holidays*

    I work for a company that has no paid holidays. We operate in multiple countries, and the general vibes are that most offices see less work happen on days that are National holidays in the specific country, but we are never formally closed for holidays. We have a fairly generous PTO policy (a large, set number of days) and people are not given side-eye for taking time off, ever.

    Since we work on shifting project teams, people generally send calendar invitations to need-to-know colleagues alerting them to when they will be off work; some people choose to say why in the invitation (e.g., “Jane PTO – Rosh Hashana” or “Philbert PTO for wedding and honeymoon”) but most people just say PTO and don’t get questioned.

    I like this culture.

  51. Dom*

    This might be due to a culture mismatch (I’m from the UK) but I’m curious about some of the comments in this thread – how does PTO differ from floating holidays, and what’s the downside to using PTO for religious occasions, other than some workplaces giving Christian holidays such as Christmas off ‘for free’?

    (I get 25 days paid holiday per year plus 10 days off that are statutory holidays, which includes Christmas but also a range of other, secular days, so there might be a bit of a disconnect there. I can imagine if I only had 10 days off total I’d be more put out by having to spend them mostly on religious events.)

    1. Mitford*

      PTO in the US covers both vacation leave and sick leave. So any time that an employee uses to observe religious holidays reduces the amount of time that they have available to take a vacation or take time off if they get sick. Most of us in the US don’t get 25 days of paid leave, so when you’re trying to balance religious holidays, sick days, and the occasional vacation out of a pot of 10 or 15 days of PTO, it’s challenging.

    2. Mitford*

      To add to my previous response, some employers have separate pools of sick leave and vacation days. Others lump it all together and call it PTO.

    3. FattyMPH*

      The downside to using PTO for religious occasions is that when Christians don’t have to, they effectively get more PTO and more support/accommodation for lack of availability during their religious observances (because those religious observances are understood as part of the dominant culture) than people in other faith traditions. PTO can often require coordinating or requesting permission. It makes non-Christian holidays an exception or even a burden to teammates, while Christian holidays a norm or expectation. Your “other than” is kind of the whole reason.

      1. Dom*

        Fair enough, thanks for explaining. I’m not Christian myself so don’t observe anything religious on e.g. Good Friday, but I do enjoy having the time off and would probably book it off anyway as it’s also when most of my (non-Christian) friends and family are free as well. Though I’m fortunate to work for a company that has very low-hassle holiday booking procedures, and I can imagine I’d be more angry about it if I weren’t able to easily get other days off, or had a more limited number of days off.

        This comments section as a whole has really hammered home how much I’m taking for granted relative to norms in the US, which casts some of the problems people raise in letters — and the advice Alison gives — in a slightly different light. It’s definitely a wake-up call.

    4. Marsha*

      Keep in mind that observant Jews have 13 days of holidays (not counting Shabbat) each year where they literally cannot work.

      The average number of PTO days for American workers is 10.

    5. ItsAboutApprovalRules*

      PTO is usually a combination if what used to be called vacation and personal dats. Some places also loop sick leave in but that’s evil because it means people who need to use sick leave never get time off for anything else.

      In general, PTO requires approval to use. Floating holidays or personal days (if you still get them) do not. Most Jews I know use personal days or floating holidays for religious holidays until they run out. Then they have to hope their boss approves using vacation or PTO.

  52. Jenny F Scientist*

    Not in any way a solution but let me recommend Jew Who Has It All for a completely accurate summary of how I (a Jew in the South) have felt ever since my childhood neighbor asked “Oh, so y’all go to a Jewish church then?”

    My current company has “unlimited” PTO but also you “shouldn’t ” take more than X days and I deal with it by ignoring HR as much as possible and taking off when I need/want to.

    1. on of the 1%*

      My first Winter holiday season here after learning I was Jewish, I was asked, what does your family do for Christmas?

      1. Orsoneko*

        My Catholic mother-in-law has asked me some version of this question every year for the past 12 years. No, my parents aren’t doing anything for Christmas this year. No, my siblings and I didn’t get presents from Santa when we were growing up.

        My MIL is truly the sweetest, most well-meaning person you can imagine, but it’s like her brain refuses to hold on to the idea that Christmas is just an ordinary day for most(?) American Jews.

        1. Jenny F Scientist*

          My MIL too. “Won’t you be lonely, alone on Christmas?” No, it is just that day everything is closed, I have no big family memories, I will read a book and enjoy my blissful solitude and eat chocolate. (My kids and spouse go visit them for Christmas. I don’t.)

    2. dip the apple in the money*

      JWHIA also now has a calendar out which shows religious holidays for multiple religions!

  53. Teapot Librarian*

    In the jobs I’ve had with leave that accrues (as in, not unlimited which my current job has), I’ve had the options of both comp time and taking paid leave. Neither is ideal, both work, but what made the difference for me was not how the leave worked from an administrative point of view, but being able to take off for holidays/early Shabbats without pushback from my supervisor. (PS no, your Wednesday evening Bible study that you have to miss for occasional meetings is not the same as me leaving early on Friday when Shabbat starts at 4:15 after I’ve worked 50-60 hours already in the week.

  54. Furious Green Dreams*

    I actually celebrate more than 30 holidays each lunar year. Let me tell you, I would really appreciate an office with unlimited PTO!

  55. Roy Kent*

    I read a story on a manufacturing company that handled this situation by figuring out how many company-wide days off there were. Then, they opened the plant 365 days a year, but gave all the workers an amount of extra vacation days equivalent to the amount of plant-closed days under the old calendar, that could be taken at any time. HR said their very multicultural workforce was quite happy with the new system.

  56. Petey*

    My current employer has a 9/80 schedule so we get every other Friday off and we can bank overtime to use as time off even if we’re salary exempt. So I was able to not use any PTO for Passover this year by working a few hours on Fridays off ahead of time. It’s not perfect, but far better than my previous employer that charged PTO for all federal holidays and Christmas when our department was closed. With no option to work if you didn’t observe that holiday.

  57. I should really pick a name*

    Bit of an addendum to this:

    How would you handle this where Christmas and Easter are government-mandated statutory holidays (you either have to get the days off, or get time and a half if you have to work)?

  58. HannahS*

    My workplace requires coverage 24/7/365. For holidays, we’re allowed to ask for our religious holidays off, and managers have to accommodate until the point of undue hardship (this doesn’t apply to holidays that are also statutory, like Christmas or Thanksgiving. We have elaborate coverage schedules for those because so many people want them off.) It’s not a vacation day or unpaid time; you just quietly don’t go to work and it’s quietly allowed. This is not publicized and many people don’t know that it’s a thing. I always took vacation for the holidays until I scrutinized the contract and realized that I was allowed the time off “for free.”

    I think it works well, to be honest. It feels equitable. I know that the common objection to arrangements like that is that Jews (or other minorities) are “getting away with something” because we have so many holidays, but I feel like being in the majority culture has a lot of advantages that I don’t have, and making me use all of my vacation on religious observance is terrible. I used to wish that I could work on all the holidays that I don’t celebrate (Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, etc.) and instead have my own holidays off, but now that I have a kid in daycare, I can’t enact that arrangement, because the daycare is closed on those days.

    1. HannahS*

      Oh, and I’ll say this. I have lived in places where I was the only non-Christian around, and I have lived in some of the most diverse cities in the world. I have never in my life had a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, or Jewish peer, regardless of their personal level of religious or cultural observance, object to any other religious minority having time off for a holiday. Never. I have been faced with everything from perplexity to RAGE from Christians and culturally Christian atheists. Not a coincidence.

    2. Marsha*

      This sounds very humane. A lot of people don’t get certain things about the Jewish holidays:

      – it’s not that we’re off having fun dinner with family and could easily do a few hours of work before they arrive. (they think it looks like secular versions of Christmas.) Observant Jews are prohibited from writing, handling money, driving or riding in a motorized vehicle, carry things from place to place, using electronics of any kind, and a bunch of other things – nearly all of which prohibit working at most jobs.

      – We have *13* days like this, in addition to every Friday sundown through Saturday sundown. many, if not most, American jobs offer 15 days of vacation time, at least to new employees. So if you want us to use our vacation time for these, we have almost no vacations. And these holidays are not vacations – we spend much of the day in synagogue and have lots of meals and other celebratory events involved. So giving us 5 floating holidays is helpful, it really is, but it still leaves me needing to take 8 days of PTO for my religious observance, and Christians get their holidays off (and I get them off too whether I want them or now), plus now they also get 5 more days they don’t need for their holidays.

      – Half the hardship, honestly, is not in the use of PTO that other people don’t have to use. It’s that on our holidays, work goes on, and because we are such a minority in most workplaces, no one stops to think, oh, I should handle this because so-and-so is off for the holidays. The work piles up, people get annoyed with you for not answering your phone or email (because most people answer theirs even when they’re OOO), and you end up having to work a ton of extra hours to make up for the totally legit PTO day you deigned to take. Whereas for weeks in the December “holiday season” people make themselves scarce, work less, take extra days for “prep” or travel and everyone understands and respects it, and no one bothers each other. And no one ever emails anyone on Christmas, or Christmas eve because they don’t want to you on the holiday. So you got the day off, and when you come back, you have no extra work to catch up on because the whole world slowed down for your holiday. This never happens to us in the US (and probably nowhere except Israel).

      And the response is going to be “well, you chose to observe this religion” (not really how it works) and “you chose to live in the US” (also not really how it works). This is how it is to be a minority of any kind in this country – most of the time, we just deal with it because yes, we “choose” to live here and “choose” to be Jewish, and we know the world doesn’t bend for us. But it does rankle to never be able to take a real vacation and actually rest because you need to use all your PTO for your religious holidays, which the majority religion doesn’t have to do that and often acts as if we’re trying to steal something from them if we ask for better.

  59. JR*

    Jewish holiday observer here.

    It really comes down to this values/policy question: Do you want Jewish holiday observers to have more time off than other people, or the same amount? I can see arguments on both sides. If your answer is yes, then the policy is easy: Give unlimited paid PTO for religious holidays. If your answer is no, then the policy is also easy: Give generous vacation time so that even people who need to take 12 days in a calendar year for Jewish holidays can also have vacations.

    The hard part is that first question. There is no real way to answer both yes and no.

    I don’t think unlimited PTO is the answer, because people with certain personalities will take more time off than most people, and people with other certain personalities will still not take much non-holiday time off because they’re worried it’s too much. Please tell me how much I’m allowed to take, don’t make me guess.

    1. Parenthesis Guy*

      It should possible to build an unlimited PTO guideline based on performance. So, Bob Brilliant might be told he should aim towards 20 days because he can get his work done quickly, while Issac Ineffective might be told that he should aim towards 12 days because he can’t. And there’s an understanding that if either has an emergency and has to take off more days than they said that they’re able to do so.

      But Issac may be unhappy that he’s getting different guidance.

    2. fueled by coffee*

      Seconding JR. The real issue is that PTO (at least in the US) is usually not sufficient to cover all the holidays (+necessary life things like car repairs/plumbing emergencies/whatever) for observant Jews or members of other religious groups. The solution to this is to increase PTO buckets.

      But all the squabbling upthread in this comments section is because of this fundamental disagreement between “religious observances are different than vacations and should be treated differently” and “it’s not fair to give people different amounts of days off.” You need to resolve that tension first.

      1. TechWorker*

        I’m fully on board with ‘religious observances are different to vacation’ but less on board with ‘religious observances are different to other non-vacation uses of PTO’ (visiting sick relatives, community events, family gatherings…). It’s not like being an atheist magically makes you not need to be part of a community (and to be quite honest I don’t think my company should have any say at any point in determining how religious or not I am).

        1. fueled by coffee*

          Agreed, which is why I (personally) think “different numbers of days off for different people” is a bad plan, and “have more PTO (or floating holidays, or flex time, or whatever) for everyone so that holidays can be observed if you celebrate them” is a better plan. If I want to use the extra days for Rosh Hashanah, great, and if Atheist Annie wants to use them for running errands or celebrating her birthday or birdwatching, also great.

          Like, yeah, it’s vaguely annoying that I have to take Christmas off even if I’d rather swap it for a day I care about more, but ultimately I can live with a “required” day off, provided I have the flexibility to also take my holidays off. Nickle-and-diming everyone’s vacation time to make sure that everyone is using the exact same number of #FunDays and #SeriousDays is just not a useful way to run a workplace. Like, if I need to use PTO to go to a funeral, am I supposed to get an extra comp day since I had to take a day off that I didn’t want to, which cuts into my vacation time?

          1. Silmaril*

            Yep, I would agree with this and TechWorkers’ point.

            The solution is much larger pools of PTO, with greater flex on taking them. And for some workplaces – especially when WFH is an option – shifting federal holidays to floating holiday, allowing flex time/compressed weeks/varying schedules etc wherever possible.

            It feels inherently rather unfair to give *extra* PTO linked to religious holidays. That seems to mean that Casey can take Good Friday off, Isaac can take Eid off, Jill can take Rosh Hashanah off, Philip can take Beltane off – plus they can each take all their other religious holidays, which is great for them – but Atheist Annie can’t take the one day of quiet contemplation and meditation in nature – which she uses to meet her spiritual needs – off, because it’s not part of a specific religious calendar. And perhaps she’s used all her “standard” PTO caring for her sick mother.

            By tying additional leave days to religion, one would also be (a) requiring staff to disclose their religion to managers/HR, (b) opening staff up to “but we know Catherine is also Catholic and she doesn’t take Good Friday off, so why do you need it, Casey” type of comparisons between different members/groups within a religion and (c) creating potential for avoidable friction “just because I’m agnostic, I have to cover for everyone else’s extra time off for religious holidays”.

            Fueled by coffee is quite right that employers nickel-and-diming “fun” vs “serious” days off is not the way to go.

            Far better, to my mind, to give people a more generous “pot” of PTO and allow them to use it as they choose – with enough of it that an observant Jewish employee can take their religious holidays AND a decent vacation (Judaism used as an example as they have a high number of “mandatory” holidays). Then the vast majority of employees will be able to cover their #FunDays and #SeriousDays (whether religious or other) without employer scrutiny/judgement.

  60. Rachel*

    floating holidays is where it’s at.
    my company gives us 2 or 3 per year (I forget), which allows me to take off for Yom Kippur next week without touching PTO.

  61. Yossariana*

    Atheist checking in here.

    What if workplaces closed on the major holidays of the major religions, like we do for Christian holidays (primarily Christmas; some financial market type jobs also close for Good Friday) – going by the statistics of the country or other jurisdiction. Like whatever those would be, I’m guessing Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism – everyone gets those days off just like everyone gets the Christian holidays off regardless of whether they’re Christian. Everyone thus gets some “freebies” and most also get their own holidays covered. (We atheists get a windfall, which seems only right since so much of the rest of society discriminates against us freely.) Then, everyone also gets vacation days that they can use for whatever, which can also be used to cover whatever gap remains.

    1. ItsAboutBeingForcedToTakeOtherPeoplesReligiousHolidays*

      But we often don’t want those other days off and resent having to take them. I would much rather work on Christmas – which is just another day to me – and a great day to catch up on stuff when it’s quiet and take that on some other day.

  62. K*

    The Government of Ontario (Canada’s largest province) had the best policy I have ever seen for this.

    They publish a calendar each year with EVERYONE’s religious holidays printed in it. They do the legwork of reaching out to the clergy of all the various branches of various religions (for example, there are separate entries for Reconstructionist, Reform, Conservative Judaism, for example) and identifying the holidays.

    Every year, you sit down with your manager and (at the risk of sounding glib) “pick your religion for the year”. Those days become part of your PTO package for the year.

    My kingdom for the federal government to adopt the same system!

  63. Single Parent Barbie*

    My Previous company gave us 3 DEI days. But we also ran during Christmas so other than being closed XMAS and Thanksgiving day and New Year’s Day we were open. Since the majority of our team members (it was a DC) do celebrate Christian holidays it would be impractical to remain open.
    Our original HR clerk thought it had to be an ACTUAL holiday for us to use them. (we went on a kick “It is a holiday its National Chocolate Covered Coffee Bean Day)

    But actually , We could USE the DEI days for Observances that were important to us. I am not religious in any way So I usually took St Patrick’s day (“cultural holiday”) The anniversary of my Father’s Death and Baseball Opening Day off.

    1. The Username Lost to Time*

      This sounds awesome and like a great way to build on the baseline of requiring employers to accommodate religious holidays (based on employer size, business need, and the employee making the hours up). I hope more people respond to your comment and share whether the DEI bucket of days is feasible for non-Christians. I’m way into all of the non-religious days that the policy applied to, not just non-Christian holidays.

      Other commenters have mentioned employers setting up a swapping system so that people don’t have to take Christmas. There was another comment about proactively asking which holidays employees would be taking time off for each year in order to address potential staffing shortfalls.

  64. phira*

    I think the only equitable policy would be unlimited PTO for holidays specifically. I loathe unlimited general PTO as a policy, since as many people have pointed out, the policy often ends up discouraging people from using PTO. And floating holidays generally don’t make a lot of sense to me for a number of reasons. Primarily that even with a floating holiday policy, most offices still close for Christmas anyway, which effectively gives Christmas-celebrators an extra floating holiday day because they don’t have to use one for Christmas. And Christian-centric thinking leads people to think that it’s normal for there to be a handful of weekday holidays a year (e.g. Good Friday, sometimes Christmas), while at least for Jews, there are so many more holidays than that. So even 1-2 floating holiday days will not help that much.

    I don’t know. I guess there will always be arguments that people will take advantage of this kind of policy, or lie about being religious, or whatever. But I think about having to work through Yom Kippur because it was “too difficult” to find coverage for me. I think about missing school for holidays, or having stuff scheduled during the first two nights of Passover. I think about when my high school DID have high holy days off, but teachers would treat the situation like everyone had a free day off and assign extra homework since we had “an extra day” to do it (never mind that I had LESS time because the holidays start the evening before!).

    Overall, I think that the Christian-centric ideas about what it means to “celebrate” a holiday really obscure what it’s like to be religious but not Christian. Because when you frame a holiday as an observance instead of a celebration (even if the holiday has celebratory aspects), I think that better explains why we need the time off.

  65. Parenthesis Guy*

    The challenge is that what works for one company won’t work for another.

    Unlimited PTO is great if you work directly for a company. If you’re a contractor of some sort (you consult for a client, or you work for a law office, or you’re a govt contractor) then unlimited PTO doesn’t work. I mean, if they charge $100 for your time, but only pay you $50 then they can’t offer lots of PTO.

    No holidays, and only PTO, works if you’re all remote. But if you’re not remote, then it takes staff to open offices and that may not be feasible. Like if you work at a factory, then they need a certain amount of employees to show up in order to operate the production line.

    Answers to this issue won’t be a “one size fits all”.

      1. H.C.*

        Not true, when I was freelancing through a contracting agency PTO was part of the compensation package (of course, nowhere as generous as when I was on staff, but still not non-existent.)

  66. atypical athiest*

    I notice that even Allison’s reminder leaves out the people who are subjected to the most religious discrimination of all: Atheists, who are mistrusted and denigrated by members of all of the Abrahamic faiths.

    It feels to me very much like religious discrimination if people who are members of faiths get extra days off to celebrate religious holidays UNLESS those who are not members of faiths are given an equivalent number of days to do things that are meaningful to them.

    So, I think that these days off have to be framed as personal days for celebrations or reflections of any kind and that everybody should get the same number of days.

      1. dip the apple in the money*

        There’s a well-known quip that Jews believes in one god or fewer. (I’m a “fewer”)

      2. Modesty Poncho*

        OK sure, but Jewish Atheists who observe Jewish holidays and consider themselves Jews are….Jews.

    1. ina*

      This feels strangely hostile. I don’t think anyone except Christian faiths that have an emphasis on evangelizing really care much about atheists. I can tell you that the branch of Christianity that my parents followed (Ethiopian) did not care at all about atheists or people with a lack of faith. They were not interested in converts; it’s something you are born into, tied deeply to culture and language. Everyone else is just doing their own thing/doesn’t effect them as long as they can practice.

      All that to say, this complaint should be directed at the people who are doing this. Not at all people who practice or belong to an Abrahamic faith. It’s a very small vocal minority you’re upset with. I refrain from being rude, but there is no way that atheists have it worse than those who experience anti-semitism and Islamophobia. Come on, Jewish populations are legit scared things will happen for just going to their synagogues this weekend and 9/11 just passed with stories of people who paid the price (random attacks, murder, mistrust, denigration, misrepresenting of their faith) for the actions of terrorists who had nothing to do with them as a whole.

    2. CLC*

      I’ve never thought of it in such straightforward terms but I do agree. I always wish the “Christmas” day off were moved to December 21 and renamed back to something secular to reflect a winter solstice holiday for everyone. People could celebrate on that day with secular or pagan traditions that are now associated with “Christmas” or any others, and religious Christians who want to go to church can take a floating holiday or vacation day on 12/25 like everyone else does for their religious holidays. Obviously this is a fantasy but it just seems to make so much more sense.

    3. I guess my name is What*

      People like you make me ashamed of my own atheist upbringing. Granted I didn’t have much concept of obligation growing up but guess what? When I did grow up and went out into the world I started learning about and noticing other people’s (and fictional! That actually helped a lot!) religion and spirituality, and boy, there’s some stuff that is nothing like “taking time for reflection”. Especially if it’s deistic– in those cases it may be explicitly *not for* the worshipper.

      Taking time to rest is important! But if you spend all day cleaning someone else’s house– even while chatting with your friends and family– you are Not Resting!

    4. iglwif*

      I’ll be sure to mention this to all the atheists I know in my congregation this weekend when we’re all at Rosh Hashanah services.

      Atheists may not be able to be Christian, but they absolutely can be religious and need time off to celebrate holidays.

      1. Modesty Poncho*

        This isn’t relevant when we’re talking about atheists or agnostics or areligious people who do not observe holidays. I don’t understand why people keep bringing this up. Not all atheists participate in the religion of their family (I’d hazard to guess most don’t!)

        1. iglwif*

          We keep bringing it up because Jews simply do not draw the same hard-and-fast distinction between “atheist” and “religious” that Christians do.

          You aren’t a Jew or an atheist; you can be both simultaneously. There might be a whole bunch of atheists at any given Yom Kippur service, for instance, and nobody would have any idea which Jews they are.

          You are probably correct that most formerly Christian atheists do not “participate in the religion of their family”. That tends to not be how it works for Jews, for a whole bunch of reasons, one of which is that we are an ethnoreligion (or, if you go by Mordechai Kaplan, a “civilization”) and we base belonging on many factors other than / in addition to belief in G-d.

          Or to put it another way: if you believe or don’t believe in G-d, you can be Jewish. But if you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, you have opted out of being Jewish.

          1. TechWorker*

            This is great to know and very interesting but pretty irrelevant to the point that atypical atheist was making. (Which.. to be clear I do not agree with, I don’t think it’s useful to compare who is ‘more’ oppressed but in lots of cases it’s clearly not Atheists).

            But where the concern is that it’s religious discrimination if Atheists get less time off, responding ‘but but some Atheists are Jews’ makes no sense? Yes ok, but then a) they’ll get the time off, and b) it’s not like a non-Jewish Atheist can suddenly choose to claim religious heritage (nor should they!). Perhaps your point was just that the original comment should have specified ‘Atheists who are not Jews/do not observe religious holidays’ but that seems pretty nitpicky.

    5. beep beep*

      Are you kidding? I’m an atheist. I’m sort of animist sometimes, but I don’t practice religion in any sort of way that would require me to have a set holiday. But as someone who has several dear friends who are Jewish, atheist and practicing both, I am fully aware that they experience far more discrimination than I ever will. I don’t care if they get the time off for their holidays. I will not whine about it, because they deserve to be able to practice in a way that honors their heritage and their religion. If that means they get more time off from work than me, that’s fine. It’s management’s job to ensure we have coverage for them, and if we don’t, that’s by no fault of theirs.

      (Applies of course to other non-Christian religions, but I happen to know more Jews than Muslims, pagans, etc.)

    6. MissElizaTudor*

      Hey, are you mistaking stuff like that poll that found something like “people are least likely to say they’d vote for an atheist as president compared to other groups” with meaningful discrimination and hardship? Because, at least in the US, other groups face way more actual discrimination and there aren’t that many actual day-to-day consequences for the vast majority* of atheists, even from people who think we have no morals.

      (this is, as always, excepting specific individuals in specific circumstances. In this case, I’m particularly thinking of youth trapped in conservative religious households, especially christian ones)

  67. Shayna*

    I am an observant Jew, and used to be a government employee. The policy for the religious holidays was that I had to make up the hours in a way that made sense for me and my supervisor, but it didn’t count against my days off. That seems like the most fair way.

    1. Regina Philange*

      Making up hours is not a fair way to do it. It’s punitive. Everyone else doesn’t have to make up the hours for Christmas.

      1. Lusara*

        But everyone gets Christmas off (at most places, obviously there are exceptions at places that are open Christmas).

    2. Heather*

      That’s how the government agency I currently work for does things. My prior agency, I struggled with support to take high holidays off due to court schedules. We did not have enough bodies to cover and judges did not care and refused to accommodate. Post-covid, my agency made a huge deal about their new DEI department. That DEI department cancelled the menorah lighting event, while keeping every other winter holiday related event in place or expanding them. When I asked for their help in bein accommodated, the response I got was to “ask nicely”. Did they think I hadn’t been doing that for 14 years? Apparently the DEI department didn’t think Jews were worthy of assistance.

  68. Dread Pirate Roberts*

    I’ve worked for a couple of places in the UK where the office wasn’t closed on any “bank holidays,” even Christmas or New Years Day. All employees had a certain number of annual leave days that included what most employers here offer as vacation plus the number of bank holidays in a year (something like 28 + 8). So you could work Easter or Christmas and take off Yom Kippur or Eid, for example. My experience was pre-pandemic so pre- the ability to work from home but bank holidays often felt like almost a normal work day in the office because some people wanted to save their time for religious days and some just preferred more vacation at another time.

  69. RaineyDaze*

    I think unlimited PTO (with a minimum requirement so that employees have to actually use it) is probably the best system for this. In second place would be to add floating holidays.

    I’m a practicing Pagan, and we have 8 sabbats. Some will naturally fall on a weekend during any given year and some are more important than others. For example, Samhain is usually considered one of the more important sabbats. It falls on a Wednesday this year, so I will use PTO to take that day. Wanting all 8 days off feels a bit like asking too much (and I’m sure I wouldn’t need all 8 off – 1 or 2 usually ends up on a weekend, like Mabon this year), but honestly, it shouldn’t. When I do take the time off to observe the sabbats, it really does help me in centering my faith and spirit.

    1. HomebodyHouseplant*

      I am also a practicing pagan and it is nice that they sometimes end up on weekends. But when they don’t it’s hard to ask for a random day in the middle of the week off. I’ve switched to doing some of my observance on the adjacent weekend, like any holiday meals that require extensive preparation and work and doing actual spiritual practice things on the day itself after work, but I dont like feeling like I have to make concessions in my faith just to exist peacefully.

  70. Mitford*

    My employer recently implemented a program where we can both buy additional PTO and also sell it back to the company. When you’re hired, the default is that you start at 15 days, but you can buy up to 10 days more for a total of 25. There’s a modest decrease in your salary when you buy more leave. I went from 15 to 20, and the difference in my biweekly take-home pay is under $100 per pay period. I do want to say that I recognize that any decrease in pay may not be sustainable for all employees, depending on their own unique circumstances, so this may not work for everyone.

    If, for whatever reason, you don’t want or need 15 days of PTO, you can scale back and receive more money in your paycheck. Few people have done this, however, but the option is available.

    The program has been very well received by employees. People are using the extra days for religious holidays, to be able to take longer vacations back to their home countries (for which they would often take leave without pay), or just to have more flexibility.

    1. beep beep*

      My company does this- for the past few years I’ve “bought” the maximum of an extra 40 hours of leave (which my manager signs off on), and I often don’t end up using all of it, so the leftover gets cashed out at the end of the year. It’s honestly a great benefit. I don’t necessarily come down on the side of it being a solution for needing more religious holiday time, but it is something I wish more companies had an option for.

  71. Snubble*

    I work in emergency healthcare, so we don’t close. The established practice is to pay time-and-a-half for working public holidays (which includes most of the big Christian ones), plus time-off-in-lieu unless you picked it up as an overtime shift. That plus some managerial insistence usually gets enough coverage, because our contracts do say you’ll have to work some of those shifts.
    The less-established but straightforward solution to the non-statutory religious holidays where you may have coverage issues is… Offer time-and-a-half and time off in lieu.
    People who care strongly will book leave, people who care mildly will avoid those shifts if they can, people who don’t care will take those shifts for the extra pay and get an extra day off for the days they do care about.

  72. Savoury Creampuff*

    At my last job you were allowed to work extra hours to bank days to use for religious purposes, and they weren’t subject to the same limits that regular credit hours were.

    I.e., everyone could bank 3 days extra PTO by working an extra 24 hours (8×3). But in addition, you could bank additional days for religious purposes, with a higher limit (I don’t remember it). So I would aim to do that for the Jewish High Holidays and Passover every year.

    Not an ideal solution, since I had to work longer to take the time off, but I appreciated the recognition that religious holidays were different.

  73. ijustworkhere*

    I’d like to gently correct one comment—Christians aren’t getting extra time off. Everybody gets all the holidays and everybody gets their vacation/PTO. Everybody has the same amount of time off available, it’s just that some of it is restricted (the holidays) in a way that doesn’t work for everyone.

    The challenge is that the ‘holidays’ don’t line up for everyone, and for us the solution has been to give everyone some “personal leave” that can be used at any time and separate from other PTO. That has helped promote equity. Some use it for religious observances, some use it for..well….whatever. The personal leave bank is credited at the beginning of each calendar year but doesn’t roll over and isn’t “cashed out” if you leave.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Our entire work week in the USA is structured around Christian religious observance by having Sunday and Saturday be the standard days off. Christmas is a Federal Holiday. Easter would be, except that Sundays most Federal offices are already closed. It’s not that businesses grant Christian’s more time off, it is that the the USA, at least, our system fundamentally favors those who come from a specific religious tradition.

    2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      They absolutely are getting extra time off. If you close the office for everyone for Christmas, you are forcing non-Christians to take a day off with no significance to them, and then making those same non-Christians use their vacation for their non-Christian holidays=the Christians get more vacation time off because their holidays are the default. “It just doesn’t work for everyone” is disingenuous and really minimizing and dismissive of an actual problem.

      Also, you are forcing non-Christians to take a day off for Christmas when they would likely rather control which days off they take. Also, see above where people talk about how different the workload is when the office is closed, versus when you personally have a day off.

    3. virago*

      “Christians aren’t getting extra time off.”

      If you are Christian, you are 1) invalidating the experience of many other people in this discussion and 2) doing something that Alison specifically asked us Christians NOT to do. (I presume you saw Alison’s request in the post: “I’m going to ask people who celebrate Christmas to hang back and let people who need other days for religious observance take the lead on this one.”)

  74. Alex*

    I’m wracking my brains on more than one Christian holiday that is typically given off. The only one I’ve ever gotten off was Christmas Day. Even when I worked jobs that required Sunday work, Easter was not given as a day off. Where I’ve worked, Christians who wanted time off for Easter, Good Friday, Christmas Eve, or….(is there any other?) had to use PTO just like everyone else. But I guess this depends on exactly where you are in the world. (I am in the Northeastern US)

    Given that, it seems that the “personal days” way of handling it is best, but also, not making taking those days off difficult–like scheduling important events or meetings on religious holidays–is important. Treat it as a given that some people will be out on whatever religious holiday, no matter the religion.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I’d be delighted if I could trade out bank/secular holiday time (Thanksgiving, New Years, Memorial Day, etc) in exchange for actually taking Easter off – I observe it at a different time than Western Easter and from Thursday onwards at minimum is supposed to be days of strict religious observance. Unfortunately part of the reason we shut down on the days we do is because that’s when our clients are all shut down anyways (I work in accounting) so asking to move holidays is tremendously unhelpful and I inevitably end up using PTO. I’d be 100% on board for a couple of religious floating holidays for everyone in the firm.

    2. CLC*

      I asked the same question before I saw yours. I literally went through the calendar in my head trying to find the other religious holiday. I’m also in the Northeast US. I know some school districts that have Good Friday and jewish holidays off, but I’ve never heard of anyone else having any religiously affiliated days other than December 25.

    3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Every single Sunday all year round. Good Friday. Christmas Eve early close. NYE early close. New Years Day.

      Interesting to me that you are in the NE – when I moved to Philadelphia was the first time I ever heard of getting Good Friday off because there are so many Catholics in the region.

        1. HannahS*

          The new year based on the Gregorian calendar? The one invented by Pope Gregory? Isn’t Christian? I’m Jewish and I didn’t grow up celebrating it. I still don’t. My new year is tomorrow.

          When your culture is the dominant culture, it becomes invisible to you but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

          1. avva*

            no, its roman pagan. The 12 “standard” months (including january 1st as new years) actually predate Christianity by 45 years. Although Pope Gregory did officially instate its use as the european christian calender, that is an adopted tradition

            1. HannahS*

              I mean, as a Jew I could apply “but it was originally X” to most of Christianity. That doesn’t make it not Christian, and more importantly that has no bearing on my point that December 31/Jan 1 is not a secular, universe New Year’s celebration.

          2. allathian*

            Most Christian and culturally Christian secular or atheist people don’t stop to think that their business calendar and religious calendar are identical. This isn’t the case for Muslims or Jews, or for that matter for Orthodox Christians, or many other non-Western cultural traditions and faiths.

            Christians, whether practicing or cultural, don’t typically see NYE as a religious holiday because it doesn’t require any particular religious observances and isn’t mentioned in the Bible.

            Shanah Tovah to everyone celebrating.

  75. GladImNotThereAnymore*

    My company moved to a “contribution hours” model a few years ago. Need to have 1850 contribution hours during the year, and any other time is yours to do what you want to with them.
    No holidays or such are special anymore – one just asks for time like any other PTO request. That seems equitable – no holiday has any more prominence over any other, and if someone wants to work on a holiday that’s fine, too. Last year, for example, most holidays I’d be interested in taking time for fell on weekend days, so rather than automatically having the “next day of observance” automatically off, I just worked those days as regular weekdays.

  76. Kgulo*

    For companies who aren’t ready to move to unlimited PTO, having a religious holiday bank might be a good solution. My company offers 3 religious holidays per year that are not deducted from PTO banks. If you’re in a position to advocate or design a policy, I think this works well.

  77. AnotherLibrarian*

    I don’t love unlimited PTO. I’ve seen too many places where it causes issues with people not taking enough time or some people taking way more than others and creating coverage or fairness issues. I think floating holidays help, but don’t 100% alleviate the issue. The best solution I’ve seen is what we did at my old job- 25 days of annual leave per year AND the option for unpaid leave for any reason. So, anyone who wanted to a holiday off could decide if they wanted to take unpaid leave or PTO and there was plenty of PTO to go around. It was a religious employer, so there was a lot of support for all religous observance. Only place I’ve worked where I got no push back ever on any request for holiday time off, even though I wasn’t a Christian and it was a Christian college.

  78. Regina Philange*

    Floating holidays in addition to your PTO and federal holidays. Problem solved. That way everyone can take off whatever religious days they need and don’t have to say what it is, etc., and the Christians don’t feel put upon because they can also use floating holidays.

    (I work for a municipality and proposed this to my union a few years ago and they decided to other me further and said that because I’m the only one who needs Jewish holidays off, they weren’t going to put it in the contract. So now I do a weird mish mash of not getting paid and making up time which is punitive and discriminatory but I digress.)

  79. bee*

    I work at a Jewish university, so we get all of the Jewish holidays off, slightly fewer federal holidays (6), and then two floating holidays, but the floating days aren’t free use, they have to be used on specific holidays (President’s Day, Purim, an add’l day of Passover, Juneteenth, Columbus/Indigenous People’s Day, a day of Chanukah, Christmas). I think this is pretty equitable, although most everyone is Jewish/Christian/non religious, I don’t know what they’d do for other religions.

    I will say that I can see why some secular workplaces would struggle with accommodating Jewish holidays, just because they vary so much year to year. This year, for example, we got eight days off for Jewish holidays (and only one during the High Holidays), but last year we had 11 (7.5 of which were in late September/early October), and in 2021 we had 13 (9.5 just in September). That’s a lot, and not something that an extra day or two of floating holidays really touches. I don’t have a solution, I just feel like it’s helpful to have a concrete example of how many days it really is.

    1. Mama Rosie*

      when we sent our kids to Jewish Community Center preschool, and they closed for the days of Sukkot/Feast of Booths, I had to explain it to my boss along the lines of “it’s a holiday that’s so holy my son’s preschool is closed but not so holy I have to spend the day in synagogue.”

      I remember thinking that if I wasn’t Jewish, I’d be pretty mad about that weird JCC preschool schedule in September and October!

  80. Dora*

    Unlimited PTO is the only way to go. Floating holidays is still borderline inequitable because people who use them for religious holidays are using them for required time off, not necessarily “fun time” or “down time” like everyone else who gets their holidays as standard company closures.

  81. Loose Socks*

    At my company, you can work a holiday to accrue holiday deferral. You don’t get “holiday pay” for working a holiday, but you get leave that is separate from you PTO and Sick leave, so by working holidays the employees don’t celebrate, they accrue leave for those they do.

  82. What is Equitable?*

    I think a lot of people are defining equitable as “fair” or “equal”. I would define it as “everyone gets what they need, even if those needs are different”

    Does that difference mean anything to anyone else?

    1. ina*

      I have many thoughts on what is means to live in an equitable world and if that’s really possibly without a radical shift in people’s mindsets because I agree with your definition — that it’s what they need vs everyone getting the same amount of a Thing. However, equity takes a kind of radical understanding and empathy that I don’t see. People understand equality better and we don’t even have that…I guess it’s about asking if equality is the first time to equity and if we can really skip one level so fast.

      I’ll stop before I muse too far!

    2. workermouse*

      With the caveat that I think medical leave protections of woefully insufficient, I think it’s interesting that equity is rarely part of the conversation there. You wouldn’t give someone extra time off in the name of equity because their coworker needed surgery. Why not protect religious obligations in the same way? Acknowledge that like medical leave, different people have different needs and leave equity out. (Though this would work better in a world where Christian holidays weren’t federal holidays.)

      1. Been There*

        I think for a lot of people religious obligations are not seen as needs the same way sick leave or caregiving responsibilities are. That’s why it is hard to accept they deserve extra days off.

    3. Alicia*

      Your definition is correct. However religion is much more of a choice than other issues associated with equity, like gender or race. Also religion is somewhat arbitrary how do you define an acceptable religious holiday? Could I become the high priest of Fridayism, where Friday is my holy day and must be celebrated at the beach? I think religious holidays have to be given blindly ie a specific number with no insight to how they are used. Otherwise some groups are going to be left out

      1. workermouse*

        I really object to the idea that my religious obligations are either optional or arbitrary. We already have legal mechanisms to evaluate the “authenticity” of religious belief and practice when it comes to questions of religious discrimination.

    4. IDK*

      This is an interesting conversation – but what if I need more time to relax than others? I mean that genuinely, and not a medical condition like anxiety but just that I need for whatever reason to have more rest and relaxation. Is is equitable for me to work fewer days per week or weeks per year than my colleagues, even if it means they have to pick up the slack?

      Should parents get more PTO than non parents because they need to take their kids to appointments and need to go to teacher conferences, etc. is that equitable?

      My family all lives out of state so holidays like thanksgiving are much harder for my than my colleagues who have family 10 minutes away. Should I get more time off around thanksgiving than them?

      I don’t think it’s as simple as just giving the standard definition of equity and applying it to time off. It’s complicated

    5. Modesty Poncho*

      Honestly this is a pitfall I work hard not to fall into. I’m not part of any organized religious group. I was raised Jewish, but it never meant very much to me. So the framing of “need” is…it’s difficult, if you’ve never experienced a religious need. If you don’t have the framework of a religion, it’s not intuitive that Mary wanting to go to church should automatically be accommodated over Carol wanting to meditate in the woods or Frank wanting to watch TV.

      Nobody is going to keel over dead if they don’t go to services. It’s not like sick leave, where you physically need to heal at that moment, or coming into work could infect other people. You have every physical capability of working, but you have prioritized an observance instead. All of us have plenty of things we prioritize over work, and I think that’s why it feels unfair when people with no holidays are just out to dry, because it feels like society at large considers “religious holiday” as something that trumps anything else we may need or want to do.

      I try to just accept that for a large number of people there are obligations that can only be filled on these specific days, just like if I had a family member having surgery and I had an obligation to be out of work to take care of them. You can’t move those things around.

      I’ll just never understand it fully.

    6. TechWorker*

      To be honest, under capitalism I don’t think it’s possible for everyone to get what they need. What we all need is plenty of time off for religious observances, family, community, rest, caregiving… if we could have a society where everyone works short hours and can afford a comfortable life that would obviously be the ideal.
      Maybe it makes me a terrible person, but when you rationalise it – long term it *is* beneficial for everyone that people get paid when they get sick (everyone gets sick) & for caregiving (everyone *was* a child, everyone gets old, even those who don’t have any children of their own clearly benefit from the general continuation of the species). So I have no problem at all with part of my work effort or my taxes going towards those things. I honestly don’t believe there is any general societal benefit to religious observances; at least not in a way that makes them inherently more valuable than other community events or volunteering. So yes, I do have a pretty big objection to classifying those as critical things that other people should pay for. (Sorry).

  83. keyHR*

    Our holiday and PTO time is all lumped together as just PTO. While our office is closed for a set number of holidays (11), you can work those days and use the time for any other day off. So, everyone has 11 days of automatic “holidays” PTO plus whatever PTO accrual they have for the year. Essentially all hour holidays are floating.

  84. Alicia*

    I think a reasonable number of specific “holiday” days (4-6) should be given and everyone has to request holidays off, including Christmas. If feasible people should be allowed to work Christmas. Specific rules about how holiday leave can been taken and how it must be granted, ie it must be requested a specific amount of time in advance, but cannot be denied and the holiday does not have to be identified. My details my not be perfect but it would allow people days off for any special day, such as Halloween, thier dogs birthday, arbor day, whatever is really important to them, including religious holidays. This creates equity and allows people to celebrate privately, if they wish.

  85. AcademiaIsWeird*

    Everyone at my place of work gets 3 personal floating holidays a year (prorated based on when you start within the fiscal year) that can be used for whatever you want. Religious holidays, personal day, sick time, extra vacation, etc. It’s separate from vacation days and sick days. Amount of vacation days vary by years of service but the 3 personal floating holidays are given to everyone regardless of tenure so that helps with some of the equity for holidays vs. using accrued vacation time. Unlike vacation days, the personal holidays don’t roll over from year to year so it’s expected that you use them or lose them and you are guaranteed to have them again for the next year. This is helpful for holidays since you don’t have to save up vacation days knowing you’ll be out for a holiday next year.
    Not a perfect system but overall a pretty good solution.

  86. I should be working*

    The problem with floating holidays is that it gives Christians extra time off. Since Christmas is already a holiday, and in some cases (like in Canada where I live) Good Friday is a holiday as well, a Christian can use their Stat holidays for religious observances, then would use floater days at the time of their choosing to do whatever, whereas non-Christians would have to do whatever on Dec 25 and Good Friday , which seems unfair.

    In Ontario Canada, employees are allowed to work on Christian public holidays in exchange for holiday pay OR a substitute holiday, as long as this is stated in writing to the employer.

    I prefer this system as it allows salaried employees who observe non-Christian holidays to work on Dec 25 (and Good Friday too I believe) if they choose, in exchange for time off on their religion’s holidays. If the employee is part of a religion that needs more than 2 stat holidays for observances, they use PTO for the rest.

    Unfortunately this doesn’t address the fact that some Christian holidays are on Sundays (i.e. Easter) so Christians get a bonus day because the work week was built around their religion in the first place. So I wonder if a “days off swapping” policy could be implemented as well. for example if a non-Christian needed 4 days off to observe, they could work 4 “non-working” days, whether it’s Dec 25, Labor Day, or a random Sunday.

  87. CLC*

    The letter mentions “a couple of extra days.” The only work holiday I can think of that can be considered religious is December 25. Easter is always on a Sunday. What am I missing?

      1. CLC*

        Right but do they get Easter Sunday off in that case? I’ve never heard of type of business or health care or public service organization being closed on Easter.

        1. PomPom*

          retail sure isn’t! In my retail days I would either have to beg for Easter off, or at least juggle shifts with someone if I wanted to get to church that morning.

  88. HomebodyHouseplant*

    I’m pagan (Wiccan specifically) and have 8 holidays a year which fall on the solstices, equinoxes, and the midway points between them. I haven’t ever felt comfortable enough to be open about my religion at work (and shouldn’t have to be) due to stigma and judgment. When we treat certain religions like the default, it puts a tremendous burden on those who risk retaliation or judgment about their beliefs.

    1. Mama Rosie*

      yes x18,000,000

      Under Ottoman control, Jews had to pay a tax just to exist. In Europe for centuries Jewish people were excluded from certain occupations and privileges and forced to live in neighborhoods that were literally locked at night (the word ghetto comes from this history). within living memory people were targeted and killed, even if they weren’t Jewish, because they had one Jewish grandparent.

      I may be old and complacent but I’m happy to set aside my PTO days and when I’ve started jobs that had “no PTO within 90 days” as a rule… I took my high holidays unpaid if needed. shrug emoji.

      I keep my head down and do good work. I get that we’re trying to make a better more just and inclusive and equitable world here and it’s a great thought exercise (except for arguing atheists oy vey) but the world will never be perfect, especially for minorities. be an ally. be kind. be generous with PTO if you can and don’t plan an All Hands Lunch on Yom Kippur or Italian restaurant dinner during Passover.

      that’s all I ask

  89. lm365*

    I am a US-based employee, but have colleagues all over the globe a large portion of which are based in India. In the US we have the common Christian-centric holiday schedule, but there is a different approach to holidays for our Indian colleagues. There are 3 “fixed” holidays and 7 “floating” holidays. For the floating holidays, you choose 7 holidays from a list of approximately 40 holidays (including Christian holidays, Muslim holidays, Hindu holidays, national holidays, possibly more). It’s great as it gives everyone proper time off for their religious/cultural holidays and lets them choose a convenient schedule. I don’t know why my company doesn’t do this in the US but I wish we do. I have taken countless days off for Passover and Rosh Hashanah and it would be great to opt out of holidays I don’t care about (4th of July???) to get these days off.

  90. lion*

    My company has unlimited personal days and one of the ways we can use them is for holidays that we aren’t otherwise given off. I always use these for Jewish holidays and haven’t had any issues in the 3 years I’ve been working there. It’s nice because personal time is separate from vacation, so I’m not using my vacation time for my holidays.

  91. WonderWoman*

    I actually advocate for what your employer is already doing, which is offer generous PTO. It will always be the case that some employees will need more PTO than others for all kinds of reasons, but a generous policy ensures that everyone’s needs are met. My last employer included a couple “floating holidays” as part of our PTO package, but I don’t know that the label matters.

    In a perfectly equitable world, I’d love it if companies were open on Christmas, and employees could take the day off OR choose to work and thereby save some PTO for other dates. I really wouldn’t mind working Christmas Day if it meant I could take a longer vacation another time of year.

    The other obvious solution is unlimited PTO.

  92. Marc*

    I’ve read a lot of the comments and think that sometimes we overthink solutions that would likely be not practical. For instance, you cannot give extra “Religious PTO” for some people and not others. I think there are legalities involved in this. Also, if my company did this, as someone who isn’t religious, I would figure out which religion had the most and say I needed those days off. Companies can decide which holidays they want to close (paid). Then they should offer either unlimited PTO or in addition to whatever the normal PTO is, everyone gets x number of floating holidays, to be used as they please. If someone wants to take off a day for religious reasons, they have the option to either use the standard PTO, the floating holiday or take it unpaid. I think this would be the fairest for everyone involved.

    1. costume teapot*

      Haha, my current company has a 4 floating holidays policy that can be used for your birthday, work anniversary, religious holiday, or any state or local holiday. I definitely pulled up all the state holidays in order to use my floating holidays on some unexpected ones when I only had a few months to decide!

  93. Student*

    I had an employer handle this by providing two “floating holidays” in addition to PTO and sick time.

    Floating holidays did not carry over and could not be cashed out when you quit. You could take them at any time of the year. If I recall, the policy was that you had to use them in one-day increments. Everyone got them. Managers needed to meet a high bar to deny them, compared to PTO (I never personally heard of somebody being denied a floating holiday request). There was no requirement to demonstrate what, specifically, you were using them for.

    That said, the company had a set of company holidays off (that did not impact your PTO), and this included two days for Christmas. So, was it a level playing field across all religions? No. But it gave us non-Christians options for non-Christian holidays, and it made me feel good and a little bit more included.

  94. Plant*

    I work for one of the global consulting firms. In addition to PTO and sick time, we have personal days. These are unlimited and are supposed to be used in case of big, unexpected events (a pipe just burst in my house! -type things), but can also be used for religious holidays. They don’t eat into PTO.

    1. a good mouse*

      That’s awesome. Do you need to ‘justify’ using those days to leadership? Or can you just use them?

  95. Daria*

    One job had all 10 holidays as floating holidays. It wasn’t perfect though. Access to the building was based on the landlord’s policy so I’m pretty sure the building was closed on New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. So if you were the receptionist, you couldn’t telework on Christmas Day, but a technical writer could.

  96. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    Here is the fallacy in this question. You LW are looking for equity in US society where it doesn’t exist. Christmas Day is always going to be a holiday for majority of workers. Yes there are exceptions, like emergency services. But at the same time a Jew or Muslim gets Christmas Day off too. Does it matter to them? Maybe and maybe not. But the reality is if a Jewish or Muslim person came into work where I work on Christmas day they literally would be doing nothing since my industry (banking) doesn’t do anything on Christmas Day. I use this as an example since you are specifically saying the word equity in your question.

    Is it fair that Jews have to take PTO for taking off Yom Kippor or Muslims for Ramadan? I don’t know if it is. But I do know I would be pretty irritated if someone came into work for Christmas Day to exchange for another day off knowing that there is nothing to do here.

    The best thing to do if give employees some amount of days off or floating holidays in addition to their regular PTO.

    I also think your question is important for managers to think about in fields where working holidays is a standard thing. The same people shouldn’t always have to work a certain holiday.

    1. Marsha*

      You’re saying you would be mad if someone wasn’t forced to take off a holiday that they don’t observe?

      And that it’s fine to force people to use their very limited PTO for religious holidays because Christmas “always going to be a holiday”?

      And that we shouldn’t want equity?

      This is a classic example of what Allison asked people NOT to do.

  97. Violet*

    We get 7 federal holidays and 3 floating holidays each year in addition to our PTO. The floating holidays don’t roll over. I use them for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Presidents Day because my kids school is closed but we’re not. Others use them for Lunar New Year, Eid, Christmas Eve (we close the 25th as it’s a federal holiday but not the 24th), or Good Friday. It’s generally a good compromise, though of course not perfect since the federal holidays are built around Christianity. There’s also the issue with coverage for people who are part of a larger minority – not everyone who would like to take Diwali or Lunar New Year off at my company is going to be able to get it approved, while Yom Kippur is not an issue for me as the only Jew in my department.

  98. Gem*

    No useful suggestion here, just a vent. I’m Jewish and work for a Christian faith-based nonprofit. Everyone knows I’m Jewish (and that I’ve dealt with some antisemitic incidents from both coworkers and major donors in the past year alone). I got asked to read the Jewish section of a multi-faith 9/11 prayer service just this week but still have to use PTO for the high holidays. It’s so deeply annoying.

  99. Another Academic Librarian too*

    For the many people on this comment thread who “just don’t understand what the issue is” in terms of equity and conclusion for the people who are not Christians, perhaps follow JewWhoHAsItAll on Twitter AKA X . They imagine a culture where Jews are the dominate culture and the Christians are the ones requesting accommodations like having Christmas as a day off.

    Since the #calendar was released, some people complained that we scheduled the mandatory #Diversity #Equity #Inclusion (#DEI) training for Tevet 13, simply because it’s “25 December” on the Pope Gregory Calendar.

    We cannot accommodate EVERYONE’s #holidays.

    1. a good mouse*

      More true than people might realize. My mom worked in the administration of a university and had to tell them they absolutely could not schedule a DEI event for Yom Kippur.

      1. on of the 1%*

        I worked for a openly very liberal, left-wing school that scheduled our (absolutely mandatory, no one may miss) DEI training on Rosh Hashanah

        1. Marsha*

          I once got asked by our events manager (because I was the only Jewish person on staff) how many kosher meals they should order for an event they were holding on Yom Kippur.

          1. 1% of the population*

            yikes. And for the rest of the readers who do not know why this is egregious. Besides that nothing important should be scheduled that day, Yom Kippur is a day of fasting.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      My last organization started discriminating against me when I pointed out that I and the other observant Jewish employees couldn’t attend a “mandatory” all-day staff thing on Yom Kippur and asked them to reschedule. Apparently in our 100+ organization in a major metropolitan city on the East Coast, since the ONE person the HR director knew was Jewish left, she assumed that there were no other Jews working there.

      I guess that is what happens when you hire an HR director with a degree from a diploma mill, but not my problem anymore!

  100. thelettermegan*

    My company just implemented an floating holiday called ‘identity day’, and it’d probably be nice if they expanded the count on that. They also have a ‘day of rest’ each month to give people 3 day and 4 days weekends that are not on the bank holiday calendar.

    2 cents though on religious holidays: in places with extreme weather, everyone feels the vibe around solstices/equinoxes days, which often line up with religious holidays from many traditions. The last week of the year for where I live is cold, wet, and existential-crisis-inducing without a reprieve from work and at least a little cheer with friends and family. The first warm days in March do actually feel like a reawakening as everyone comes out of hiberation – the ‘I had no idea so many people lived in this neighborhood’ effect is real. Halloween can often feel like the last nice day of the year. I think companies could get a lot of milage out of offering the solstices and equinoxes as extra holiday options, especially in areas that get abysmal winters.

  101. Llama Llama*

    My work has holidays + 2 floating holidays. However, holidays aren’t set in stone. As long as the holiday is in the same year, you can use it any time. So essentially it’s 11 floating holidays.

  102. a good mouse*

    My last company made it really easy to work a holiday and take it as a comp day, no approvals needed. It was good for a year afterward. So I’d usually work Christmas and save that day to use for another holiday like travel for Passover or for Yom Kippur.

    It’s not a perfect solution for all offices, but it let me redistribute the ‘official’ holidays in a way that was more useful to me.

  103. Goose*

    I’m Jewish and work for a Jewish nonprofit specifically so I don’t have to navigate this. We are all complaining that holidays fall on the weekend this year.

    On top of that, my org:
    –Has unlimited PTO with mandatory 2 days off every quarter
    –Flexible WFH
    –Federal holidays (including Juneteeth)
    –Closing Christmas through New Years, and week of Passover
    –Encouraging people to take their PTO on the holidays that resonate with them

    1. Goose*

      I will also add that we have a number of non-Jewish and/or non US based staff, so folks are encouraged to take their holidays off on top of “office closure” holidays.

    2. iglwif*

      We are all complaining that holidays fall on the weekend this year.

      Hahaha, whereas I am DELIGHTED because it means that the High Holidays alone will not eat up 3 full days of my “family care leave” (sick time / personal time) bucket this year :D

  104. Lily Potter*

    *Caveat – this will not work for the vast majority of offices but maybe will work for some.

    A good friend works as a health care administrator. They get ZERO paid holidays as their hospital is obviously a 24/7/365 operation. You have to take PTO if you want to be off for Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and yes, Christmas Day. They get 5- 7 weeks of PTO to account for not getting holiday pay.

    1. TechWorker*

      PTO literally stands for ‘paid time off’ so I’m a bit confused by this – are you saying they get no PTO days but can take 5-7 weeks of unpaid leave?

      1. Lily Potter*

        My friend’s hospital system grants 5 -7 weeks of PTO but they don’t give any paid time for holidays. A more typical US business would give 2 – 4 weeks of PTO but pay employees for holidays like New Years Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Government and financial institutions typically have five to eight more days that are official holidays for which no PTO is required.

        For example: At her hospital, if you want to be off work on Christmas Day, the time off comes from your PTO bank (whereas most businesses just close for the day and give everyone the day off without pulling hours from the PTO bank)

      2. Gyne*

        She means they have to use their personal PTO to take Christmas (or any other day) off. There are no days the hospital is closed and everyone is off – if Christmas is a day you’re normally scheduled to work, you work. I see your confusion because those days are generally “paid” when an office is closed as a “paid holiday” but the employees also have a separate bucket of their own PTO to use at their discretion.

  105. CJ*

    An extra issue I find happens with religious holidays is when they _almost_ overlap. I’m pagan and try to observe the solar quarters: the solstices and equinoxes. I find that this runs into an extra problem around Christmas, in that Yule is a few days before (the 21st, give or take), right when everyone is running ragged trying to get things together for the Christmas-New Year Shutdown. (And don’t even ask for it when working retail!)

    I don’t know if floating PTO would work, save for in the “Prepare The Others” meme sense. It’s doubled by the fact that I honestly wouldn’t have minded working on the 25th, but of course the business wasn’t open, so I had it off whether I wanted to or not.

  106. Agnostic Holidays*

    I am agnostic and I am the person who made the calendar decisions for PTO, Holidays, Vacation. Some industries this probably wouldn’t work in. You pick what days are your set workdays. So if you want to work Tuesday-Saturday, fine! Then those are your workdays. Sometimes collaboration needs to happen, so there are a few times a year when everyone needs to be together, but less than five.

    All of our leave is the same. It’s all floating, nothing rolls over. You have a total of 60 days during the year to use at your discretion for holidays, vacations, PTO. It’s doesn’t roll over because I want people to use it. It’s important to take time off.

    I think this is generous and fair and accommodates a lot of people who have different needs. But I fully understand it won’t work for workplaces that are tied to a federal calendar, schools, etc.

      1. Agnostic Holidays*

        It’s sooooo sooooo hard to hire for this place. It requires a very specific advanced skill set that people spend decades to acquire (very high drop rate in colleges-most people give up), this business is not in an urban area, and people with families hate the hours (1-8pm). But I think it’s worth it! I take three weeks off every May-because I can!

    1. Boof*

      Honestly I think this is the best way to prevent grumbling.
      — ALL holidays are “PTO”, but have generous PTO, have a minimum PTO requirement and an average “recommendation”
      — don’t have PTO-holidays, or if one must, have the bare minimum (days that everything everywhere is shut down and the business wouldn’t be able to function anyway).

  107. Eeyore is my spirit animal*

    Once upon a time, I worked for a company that didn’t close for US Federal holidays. Instead, we got that number of days (10?) as floating holidays. The only issue was if you worked offsite in a location that did close for the holiday, you had to make sure you had your ducks in a row to work from home.
    It was just a different check box on the leave request form and before the popular
    Federal holidays, an email went around asking if anyone was planning to be in the office, so they could let security know.

  108. ggg*

    My newest job started giving every other Friday off and the schedule occasionally skips a week in order for it to line up with major holidays. People still have to use PTO for multi-day holidays or anything that doesn’t coincide with the calendar, but it helps that we dont have to use as much PTO for trivial things like appointments because you can schedule them for those Fridays.

  109. Disinfected*

    How is no one talking about how the employer isn’t giving Christmas off to those who don’t celebrate? (“Christian colleagues get an extra couple of days of vacation compared to the rest of us”) How is that legal?

    1. Decidedly Me*

      The LW didn’t say they don’t get the day off and I don’t think that is what they are implying either. As mentioned throughout the discussions above, that’s the feeling since people with non-Christian religious holidays have to use PTO for their holidays, people that celebrate Christian holidays that are off by default get more days of their PTO to use as they wish.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          They’re not actually getting more.

          Think of it as this: Everyone has 15 vacation days.

          Non-Christian employee uses 3 for religious holidays leaving 12.

          Christian employee doesn’t need to use any for religious holidays because the company automatically gives them their religious holidays (Christmas and Easter) off, so they have their full slate of 15 days unspoken for.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I think you’re misinterpreting.

      If you make the assumption that people will use their vacation days for religious observances, then christians who would take easter/christmas off functionally have more flexible time off because they don’t need to spend their vacation days to do it.

        1. Celeste*

          The letter said, it SEEMS like they get more time, not that they actually do.
          “it does seem as though Christian colleagues get an extra couple of days….”

        2. Katara's side braids*

          LW said “more vacation,” not “more time.” It really comes down to whether you see “time off” and “vacation” interchangeably, which has been the crux of the conflict in this comment section.

  110. Jules the First*

    We (multinational headquartered outside the US) ask staff to file a request for religious observance which gets them access to the in-office prayer room and adjustments to their working hours as needed. The office then closes for whatever observances are holidays in the country where you are located. The caveat to this is that you can be asked to cover office closures or make time up on other days. It mostly works…

  111. Goldenrod*

    I think my employer (a large university) handles this pretty well. Everyone gets one “personal holiday” which is one day off a year that they can use however they choose.

    This is in addition to regularly accrued vacation time (which is very generous, it’s easy to take 5 weeks off a year if you’ve worked here for a while), and state holidays.

    The “personal holiday” doesn’t accrue, so you have to use it or lose it within the year. A lot of people take their birthdays, but it could be used for any date whatsoever.

  112. veggie scientist*

    I’ve worked on Christmas before and I don’t mind, if I could trade out the actual day of Christmas somehow that would be okay with me. That only works if there’s something for me to do, obviously, like working on a paper or going in and terminating an experiment (which has happened before.)

  113. costume teapot*

    I worked somewhere that had a *really* flexible floating holiday policy. That was: if you ever worked on a “company observed” holiday, you could use that day as a holiday whenever you wanted. Since I worked in a position that needed lots of uninterrupted heads down time, I would work every single fall holiday (and be SUPER productive) and then use the accumulated days off whenever I needed. It certainly supported a resolution for the “but I don’t celebrate Christmas, I don’t need or want the day off” problem.

  114. manticore*

    My company has no holidays. We must use PTO for any weekday not working. In effect this means the office is never closed and those that are in service roles have a harder time taking holidays off.

  115. AsterRoc*

    If you’re giving extra holidays to people of non-Christian religions, I also want to see atheists get a similar number of days off.

    I’ve seen both good and bad versions in fields where coverage is needed 24/7/365(366). Bad version is least senior person has to work the popular holidays (such as Christmas and New Year’s), with no extra monetary compensation, though they usually get a flex day off in return. Good versions pay a premium on those holidays, and either volunteers or rotate so different people do it every year.

      1. Head sheep counter*

        So being religious is equal to having a medical problem? That’s bold… and I might agree… but I think that is a different conversation.

  116. Pet Jack*

    Floating holidays. But everyone gets them, so if you celebrate Christmas, you still end up taking floating holidays NOT for holidays. Also, can we not schedule big meetings and events around holidays? I could have had an opportunity to rub noses with the big whigs when my boss couldn’t attend something last year and asked me to go, but it fell on Yom Kippur. I’m not even that religious but I still bowed out and I was annoyed that they had something on such a day for my religion personally.
    I realize there are many many religions, but still…
    At school, the days were an excused absence. I guess at work the stakes are higher if someone claims to be of a celebrating religion or not.

    1. ItsNotJustTakingOff*

      I missed a conference held by a US government agency last year because it was on Yom Kippur. That one really made me burn.

      I have missed company outings, visits from the CEO (from Europe, I’m in Northeast US), company lunches, and all sorts of other stuff because they scheduled them on Rosh Hashannah or Yom Kippur and once scheduled it was too hard to move them.

      I wasn’t allowed to participate in the school play in junior high because I missed two rehearsals for Jewish holidays.

      Yes, people, please stop scheduling stuff on the major Jewish holidays.

  117. fish*

    There is an existing solution, which oddly hasn’t been mentioned yet.

    In Israel, which has workers from many different backgrounds, some employers let employees choose a “package” of religious holidays – prearranged days off, equal amount for everyone. Jewish, Muslim, and Christian are standard, or you can pick your own with your manager.

    That way days needn’t be negotiated one-by-one, employer gets coverage, employees get what they want, everyone gets same number of days off that they can use as they please.

    1. Louise*

      Ooo, thank you for this comment! I’ve been wondering how countries where that are NOT majority-Christian, but have similar levels of religious diversity handle it.

  118. Political consultant*

    As a Jew in an interfaith marriage, the thing that’s helped me most is just more overall PTO. Early in my career, I had 10 days off/year, had to take PTO anytime I wasn’t physically in the office and lived far from both my family and my partner’s family, which meant that nearly all my PTO was used for religious holidays and family visits vs. actual vacation. Even just one extra week made a huge difference in giving me more breathing room. Remote work helped a ton too – particularly with Jewish holidays falling on various days of the week, being able to travel on a weekend then work remotely Monday for a holiday that began Monday night, for instance, helped a lot.

    Also, I really encourage people to check out the Facebook account “Jew who has it all” for a satirical take on an imagined world where Jews are the majority in the U.S. I think it offers a useful perspective on what it’s like to be a religious minority, particularly navigating a country who’s “holiday season” doesn’t align with your own or dealing with religious practices in schools or workplaces that seem secular to people raised Christian, but absolutely aren’t to atheists and people who belong to other religions.

  119. New Senior Mgr*

    Everyone gets 12 floating holidays a year to be used as we wish. It does not include vacation or PTO days. Those are in a separate pot. I use floating holidays for non Christian holidays and my birthday. Everyone has Christmas and New Years Days off.

    1. Marsha*

      This is the only workplace I’ve ever heard of where the number of floating days would actually come close to being helpful to Jews and people from other minority religions. Kudos to your employer!)

  120. Managercanuck*

    I had the opportunity to see things from a different perspective than mine when I lived in Japan and taught English for a private company. My “weekends” were Thursday and Friday. In addition to that, there are 16 public holidays, most of which aren’t similar except New Year’s Day. For us teachers, most of the public holdays weren’t days off for us unless it was already part of your normal routine, it just meant a different class schedule. If I wanted Christmas or Easter off, I had to either swap a shift with one of my other teachers or use one of my vacation days.

    The exception was New Year’s, when our school closed from the 29th of December to the 3rd of January.

  121. Goody*

    I used to work for a predominantly Jewish law firm, but there were enough other-faith and non-observant employees that they recognized a need for flexibility. So instead of specific holidays, everyone was given a certain amount of “personal holiday” in addition to PTO and sick time. It’s been long enough ago that I don’t recall the exact number. We just scheduled those days same as we would for PTO.

  122. saradesel*

    My office offers a floating religous holiday day and when I joined 10 years ago the only employees were Catholic and Jewish, so the Catholics would use it for Good Friday and the Jews used it for whatever Jewish holiday that did not fall on a weekend. Our makeup has changed and I’m now the only even vaguely practicing Jew on staff (and we have no practicing Catholics anymore either), so I think my efforts to expand that number of holidays to three is going nowhere.

  123. Dinwar*

    I think the biggest issue is that we as a society want a default for what holidays are celebrated. As a culture we’ve increasingly embraced diversity, including religious diversity, and there really isn’t a default anymore. And that means we need to have more flexibility to accommodate more people. I don’t think something like giving us two floating holidays is sufficient–there are 8 holidays in my religion, only 2 of which are anything like close to federal holidays, for example. I think this needs to be something employers and employees negotiate on the way in. On the flip side, there are secular holidays (Memorial Day, MLK Day, and the like) that everyone can celebrate, and I think it would remove something from our culture to ignore those days.

    Current work allows for greater flexibility as well. Knowledge workers don’t need to be at their desks 8 hours a day the way a factory worker did. If I miss a day randomly it’s not the end of the world (barring unusually tight deadlines). If people know up front I’m taking certain days off they can plan around that. (Of course, on the flip side that would mean advertising my religious views, which can still be dangerous in some areas. So this is a situation without a perfect solution.)

  124. FriendlyNeighborhoodSatanist*

    As a Satanist, one of the things I always bring up in this convo is that if I’m taking time for a holiday, I don’t really want to declare that it’s a holiday. A nosy person could figure out my religion from the uncommon dates, which I prefer to keep private (and as we saw last year, a Satanist “outed” at work had a really bad time of it). I don’t have a good solution for this, but I find that a lot of the time this conversation doesn’t account for people who want to keep their religion private. Floating days, or general PTO, or something, is definitely preferred though.

  125. Mrstiger*

    I am Jewish and I feel like floating holidays with a generous time off package is the best, realistic option. I work for a state government. We will never have unlimited PTO. And we currently don’t have floating holidays, and I would like that. But we have comp time (for every 30 mins we work overtime, we earn the equivalent comp time), so the reality is that I feel like I am adequately compensated for my time and have time to pull from, so it doesn’t bother me that I have to take time off that my coworkers don’t because I have enough. I previously worked for an organization that removed our floating holidays and added them to Christmas break, and I quit. so don’t do that. it just felt incredibly disrespectful and a huge step backwards.

  126. Lance Conn*

    Set holidays (days off) for federal holidays. There are 10.
    Floating holidays (days off) for anything else.

    1. MC*

      I agree this is probably the best way to go. Like give maybe like 5 floating holidays per person?I think that would be enough to cover most religious holidays unless a religion has a particularly high amount of holidays on week days.

  127. Megan*

    I worked at an office that gave everyone a couple of floating holidays to use at your discretion, so maybe offer a generous amount of floating holidays instead of the Christian holidays being default off days for everyone? The one issue with that is, realistically in the US, unless the office has a particularly high population of non-Christian workers, majority of the office would likely want Christmas off, so in some office contexts, it just makes most sense to give everyone that day off and shut the office down, because it might not make sense to keep the office open for just a few people in some cases. For people not celebrating Christmas, they would just get a free day off to do as you’d like which at least kind of makes up for using a floating holiday for your actual holidays. But in jobs that would allow for a few people to still work on days where most of the office wants off, you could just issue enough floating holidays to cover most religious holidays and have those used for all religious holidays including Christmas.

  128. Anonchivist*

    As a secular Jew who identifies strongly with Judaism as an ethnicity, I am disgusted and alienated by the ignorance exhibited in this thread by people from ethnically/culturally Christian backgrounds. Y’all were asked to sit down, but you just couldn’t help yourselves, huh?

    1. Roland*

      Seriously, thank you. As a fellow secular Jew, culturally Christian atheists who refuse to own the Christian part of their culture really get my goat. Like just stop.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        As another fellow secular Jew who disagrees with you (based on your posts on other threads), I don’t know how you can tell who’s coming from a place of ignorance and who’s not *just* based on their opinions.

    2. Spencer Hastings*

      I’m also a secular ethnic Jew, and I suspect that there are some things we don’t agree on. I don’t think everyone should be required to specify their ethnic and religious background on each of their comments (especially not retroactively), and I’d hate for someone’s posts to be deleted because they were mistakenly flagged as not speaking from experience when they actually are, just because someone jumped to a conclusion about an opinion they expressed.

  129. Marie*

    Here’s another take on this type of situation:

    I have a friend who is an Orthodox Christian, on the “old calendar” (Julian), which is 13 days behind our civil (Gregorian) calendar. So her celebration of Christmas is January 7. Her Holy Week/Easter dates are usually different than what’s normally celebrated in western society. She has difficulty getting the days she wants off because HR and her boss don’t understand why she’s celebrating Christmas/Easter at a different time, even though she has provided links to websites that explain. She had no issue using her PTO, but had a difficult time getting the days off at all. Mind you, her office has observant Jews and Muslims who are given time off for their religious holidays.

      1. Marsha*

        Seriously – it’s not that hard. Especially if they are already accommodating other religions.

        I come at this from a personal Jewish perspective, but everyone’s faiths should be accommodated – or, I suppose, no one’s should (though that would be really dumb).

    1. iglwif*

      Wow, that’s … wow. It’s not rocket science! They’re using a different calendar, just like we (Jews) and Muslims are!