Paid Holidays in Alaska (2024 Guide for Employers)

Business owners operating in Alaska have their work cut out for them when it comes to managing employees. Tracking time and running payroll efficiently is difficult enough, but it gets even more unwieldy when you add in needing to keep track of paid holidays.

So, some Alaskan business owners might choose not to bother with paid holidays at all. After all, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t require that business owners offer time off for holidays.

However, business owners that don’t offer paid holidays are missing out on a component that could increase their business’s odds for long-term success.

In this post, we’re going to breakdown everything that you need to know about paid holidays, including:

  • Defining Paid Holidays
  • How Paid Holidays impact the public sector vs the private sector
  • Federal Holidays vs State Holidays
  • Alaska Specific Holidays
  • The Benefits of Offering Paid Holiday Time
  • FAQs
  • How Buddy Punch helps manage Paid Holidays.

What is a Paid Holiday?

A paid holiday is a national, state, or religious holiday that employers have the eligibility to grant their employees. If they choose to do so, employees will be granted a full day’s worth of wages. The U.S. Department of Labor notes that there is nothing in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that requires private employers to provide this benefit. However, public employers that work for the state or federal government are required to provide these days off.

Regardless of this, many private business owners choose to offer paid holidays anyway. One major reason for this is that offering paid holidays allows them to be a more attractive workplace for high-quality talent. Those kinds of highly sought out workers tend to greatly value their time, personal development, and mental health – and as such, want timely breaks and paid time off to facilitate their own goals.

Who do Paid Holidays apply to?

The only people who are usually entitled to paid holidays are public employees, who the Department of Labor identifies as anyone that works for the United States Government, directly for a state, the District of Colombia, a territory or possession of the United States, a city, a municipality, a township, a county, a parish, or a similar government. For example, a firefighter working in Juneau or an Anchorage social worker.

If a private employer chooses to offer paid holiday time (through a PTO policy, employment contract, or some other written document), they’re held to the rules they establish. There are no takebacks, though there may be a few situations where they do not have to pay out unused PTO depending on the state.

Federal Holidays

The list of all federal holidays to be observed throughout the 2024 calendar year (regardless of what state you’re in) and the date they fall on is as follows:

  • New Year’s Day (Monday, January 1)
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day / Civil Rights Day (Monday, January 15)
  • Washington’s Day / President’s Day (Monday, February 19)
  • Memorial Day (Monday, May 27 – last Monday in May)
  • Juneteenth National Independence Day (Wednesday, June 19)
  • Independence Day (Thursday, July 4)
  • Labor Day (Monday, September 2)
  • Columbus Day (Monday, October 14)
  • Veterans Day (Monday, November 11)
  • Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, November 28 – 4th Thursday of November)
  • Christmas Day (Wednesday, December 25)

There are a few blanket rules that apply for all federal holidays. For example, for any holiday that happens to fall on a Saturday, federal employees are given the Friday before the holiday off. If a federal holiday happens to land on a Sunday, employees get a day off the following Monday.

While these are the only official federal holidays, plenty of private employers choose to offer other days or hours off. For example, many businesses will stay open for reduced hours the day before Thanksgiving or on Christmas Eve to allow employees to travel and be with family.

Holidays Specific to the State of Alaska

When any of the holidays featured in either of these lists falls on a Sunday, it is observed on the following Monday. If a holiday happens to fall on a Saturday, employees are given the Friday before the day off.

Impact of Common Alaska Leave Laws

While we’re observing the overall impact of paid holidays on work hours, let’s take a look at Alaska’s Labor Laws.

Sick Time

Alaska does not require employers to offer sick leave to their staff members. However, if a private employer chooses to offer sick leave, they must abide by their own established policies and employee contracts. Details about accrual rates, eligibility, and procedures are entirely up to employers but must be clearly communicated in written documentation.

Vacation Leave and Holiday Time

Alaskan business owners are not required to offer any holiday leave to their employees by any Alaska law. Additionally, determining how regular pay and holiday pay is entirely up to the employer. Even working on an official holiday does not entitle employees to overtime pay for the pay period.

Parental Leave

The Alaska Family Leave Act (AFLA) and the Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) both work to provide stability to Alaskan employees.

The AFLA is a state law that provides a job-protected paid or unpaid leave of absence for up to 18 weeks in a 24-month period to eligible employees with a qualifying serious medical condition. It also provides a job-protected absence for up to 18 weeks in a 12-month period to eligible employees for pregnancy, childbirth, or adoption.

This works hand-in-hand with the FMLA, which provides a job-protected absence for up to 12 weeks in a 12-month period for eligible employees with a qualifying condition.

Bereavement Leave

There is no Alaskan law or Federal law that requires employers to provide bereavement leave or leave to attend the funerals of friends or family members. This is another situation where employers can choose to add this type of leave to the employee benefits as they wish but will then be held to those parameters by employment law.

Jury Duty

According to Justia, an employer is not allowed to deprive an employee of employment or threaten, coerce, or penalize an employee because they employee receives or responds to a summons for jury service, serves as a juror, or attends court for prospective jury service. However, employers are also not required to pay wages to an employee for time spent on jury service or in court for prospective jury service.

If this section is violated, an employee may bring a civil action to recover lost wages as a result of the violation, other damages that resulted from the violation, and may also seek an order requiring their reinstatement.

Voting

Employers must allow sufficient paid time to vote for their employees, unless the employee has at least two hours to vote before or after their work hours.

Overtime Pay

Alaska uses a standard approach to overtime. Employers are not allowed to require full-time employees to work longer than 40 hours in a single workweek, or eight hours in a day. If an employer finds it necessarily to employ an employee past these standards, the compensation for such overtime shall be paid at a rate of one and a half times the regular rate of pay.

Read our guide here for a more comprehensive look at how Alaska Law affects your workplace.

The Benefits of Paid Holidays

You may think with so many different paid holidays and types of leaves that it would be more convenient just to avoid offering paid holidays at all. However, we think that the benefits of offering paid holidays far outweigh any inconveniences. Here’s why:

#1 – Paid holidays allow you to attract better talent

The pandemic changed the perspective of many employees when it comes to their priorities. It’s not just that many workers are choosing work from home as their preferred lifestyle. They’re also prioritizing their mental and physical health and putting an emphasis on maintaining a work-life balance, seeking out working conditions that aid in this goal.

The easiest way for an employer to attract these sorts of workers (who are numerous among the Millennial and Gen-Z talent pool) is to offer paid holidays as part of your benefits package. Generous PTO policies help your business standout among your competitors, giving you an edge in selecting the best workers from the talent pool.

#2 – Paid holidays improve company morale

Giving your employees a paid day off allows them to take time to themselves guilt-free. This clears up room for them to relax and recharge, or to handle personal matters that have the potential to bleed into their work focus if they’re allowed to fester. Once the holiday is over, team members come back to work ready to get tasks done. A team of relaxed, balanced workers contributes to a productive atmosphere, overall benefiting your company morale.

It’s also worth noting how destructive having a stressed work environment can be. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 35% of quitting workers did so because of too many work hours. Additionally, 45% of quitting workers said a lack of good benefits (such as health insurance and paid time off) are why they left their companies. There’s no reason to risk losing your workers due to a lack of paid holiday offerings, especially when your company environment benefits from having them.

#3 – Paid holidays help your company save money

This point may seem counterintuitive since a paid holiday allows your team members to not work and receive wages for it, but that’s only how it looks in the short term. In the long term, giving your employees that time off means you’re less likely to deal with a loss of talent due to stress or overwork, like we hinted above. If you’re not losing talent, you’re not having to take the time and money to train new hires, a process that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) says costs six to nine months of the employee’s salary.

If that’s an intimidating stat, here’s a more relaxing one: the Pew Research Center determined that 46% of U.S. workers use less paid time off than they’re offered. That means that setting up PTO for your team members will allow you attract better talent, improve company morale, and boost employee retention, all while it being unlikely for every single holiday or vacation to be used up.

In other words, Alaska business owners should look at offering paid holidays as an investment, not a concession.

Use Buddy Punch to Track Paid Holidays

Tracking paid holidays on top of PTO accruals, employee time, and team member scheduling can sound like a complicated task. Thankfully, there are many workforce management solutions that can do most or even all of this for you. One prime example is our very own tool, Buddy Punch.

Buddy Punch comes with a comprehensive Paid Time Off Tracking Feature that lets you manage standard PTO types and add custom ones at will. Whenever an employee puts in a holiday leave request, you can configure Buddy Punch so that you and/or your administrators receive a notification and can approve or deny the request. Additionally, you have the option to enable an employee self-service approach to PTO for your trusted team members. Instead of having to oversee everything, you can let them be auto-approved for their time off requests, freeing up your schedule to optimize your business in other areas.

There’s even more to love with Buddy Punch, such as automatic time tracking, drag & drop employee scheduling, built-in payroll to make payday calculations a breeze, and more. Click here to explore Buddy Punch’s many options, or click here to view a demo video of our software.

Frequently Asked Questions

So, offering PTO of any kind is optional in Alaska?

Yes, there are no laws requiring that you offer PTO if you’re a private business. If you’re a public employer (working for the state) you have to offer paid holidays.

Do Alaska employers have to pay out unused PTO in case of termination?

Alaska employers do not have to pay out unused PTO by law, but any written agreement they make with employees (PTO policy, company contract, etc.) holds them to whatever is signed. If they outline that they will pay out unused PTO, they must do so.

How do unions impact my PTO policy?

This will depend entirely on the union and the collective bargaining agreements involved. It’s very possible that rules about leave benefits may be included, so be sure to have your HR department look them over carefully.

Do employers tend to offer employees all 11 paid federal holidays?

According to a survey conducted by Zippia, the average U.S. employees receive 7.6 paid holidays. The two most common paid holidays are Thanksgiving and Christmas, while President’s Day and New Year’s Eve are the two least common.

How much is Holiday Pay?

Holiday pay is equal to an employee’s basic rate of pay.

How much is the minimum wage in Alaska?

As of January 1, 2024, the minimum wage in Alaska is 11.73 per hour, which is higher than the federal minimum wage.

Official State Resources

Disclaimer: Not Legal Advice

This blog post provides a general overview of Alaska Holiday & Paid Leave Laws but does not constitute legal advice. Laws and regulations are subject to change, and there may be additional requirements or exemptions that apply to specific situations. Employers and employees should consult a qualified labor law attorney for advice on their specific circumstances.

If you have any questions about your rights or obligations as an employer or employee in Alaska, it is essential to consult with a labor law attorney to receive accurate information and guidance tailored to your situation. By seeking professional legal advice, you can ensure that you are taking the appropriate steps to comply with labor laws and protect your rights.

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