Paid Holidays in California (2024 Guide for Employers)

California business owners might hesitate to offer paid holidays to their employees. After all, tracking employee work time, setting up weekly schedules, and handling payroll can be complicated enough without adding paid holidays into the mix. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) doesn’t require a business owner to offer PTO of any type to their employees, so some might decide not to.

However, this is one of the biggest mistakes a business owner can make.

In this post we’re not only going to explain the many benefits a business owner can reap by offering paid holidays, but we’ll also break down everything you need to know about how holiday leave works in California so you can get a better understanding of how they impact your business.

What is a Paid Holiday?

A paid holiday is a religious, state, or national holiday that California employers have the eligibility to grant their employees. If you choose to do so, your team members will be given a day off for which they will still be compensated a full day’s worth of wages. Because of the monetary cost and the fact that the federal government does not actually require paid holidays to be offered, some business owners skip over giving them out.

According to data from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), 73 percent of small businesses offer PTO to full-time employees. Part of the reason for this is because offering PTO is an easy way for business owners to stand out in a competitive job market. Paid time off in your benefits package will help you win high-skill workers that will have a noticeable impact on your profitability.

Who do Paid Holidays apply to?

The FMLA not requiring employers to offer any paid time off at all only extends to private employers. Public employers, however, are required by federal law to offer paid leave and paid holidays to their employees. The U.S. Department of Labor identifies public/state employees as anyone working 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.

That said, if a private employer chooses to offer paid holiday leave, California labor laws will hold them to whatever agreement they outline in their company policy.

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)
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day / Robert E. Lee’s Birthday / Civil Rights Day (Monday, January 15)
  • George Washington’s Birthday / 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)

It’s worth noting how some states change the official names of some of these holidays.

Any legal holiday that happens to fall on a Saturday results in employees having the preceding Friday before the holiday off. If a federal holiday happens to land on a Sunday, employees get a day off the following Monday.

Holidays Specific to the State of California

There are two specific holidays celebrated in California that vary in other states:

Cesar Chavez Day is a particular holiday that varies in its observance. The state holiday is always on March 31, but since that was a Sunday in 2024, the day itself was shifted to be observed on the following Monday. Cesar Chavez Day is not observed statewide, and it’s not required by California state law to be observed.

Impact of Common California Leave Laws

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

Sick Time

Though there are no federal laws that require employers to provide sick leave to their staff members, California has Paid Sick Leave as a permanent law. If you operate in the State of California, as of January 1, 2024, you are required to provide at least 40 hours of five days off each year to your workers. This includes full-time, part time, and temporary workers who meet these qualifications:

  • Work for the same employer for at least 30 days within a year in California, and
  • Complete a 90-day employment period before taking any paid sick leave

Employers can choose to provide more Paid Sick Leave hours or days off at their own discretion so long as they are meeting these minimums. Employers can also choose to provide all these hours off at one time, or you can make your team members earn the sick leave hours in an accrual plan. If you choose an accrual plan, your staff must earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for each 30 hours of work.

Vacation Leave and Holiday Time

There is no California law and no Federal law that requires employers to provide either paid or unpaid vacation leave. However, if an employer writes an agreement about vacation leave into the PTO Policy, employment contract, collective bargaining agreement, or other legal agreement, they are bound to it by law. Additionally, under California law, earned vacation time is considered wages.

In the case of holiday pay, California employers are not required to pay employees extra pay for any work performed on holidays. They can offer this in a company policy if they so wish, however.

Parental Leave

In addition to the FMLA applying to employers nationwide, California has the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to take into consideration for parental leave. This law allows eligible employees to take up to 12 total weeks of paid or unpaid protected leave during a 12-month period. Employees are allowed to use their leave for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The birth of a child or adoption or foster care placement of a child.
  • To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child or parent) with a serious health condition.
  • When the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition (SHC).

California also has the New Parent Leave Act (NPLA) which permits eligible workers at companies with 20 or more employees to take 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

Bereavement Leave

As of January 1, 2023, California requires that bereavement leave be provided by private employers who have at least five employees. Eligible employees are entitled to up to five days of bereavement leave from work following the death of a family member. This includes the death of a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or partner-in-law. To be eligible for bereavement leave, an employee must have been employed for at least 30 days before taking the leave.

Jury Duty

California Law does not require employers to offer paid time off for jury service. However, if you write into your employee handbook an agreement granting employees time off for jury duty selection and/or the process of actually serving on a jury, you are bound by employment law.


California employers are required to provide time off for their employees to vote if they do not have enough time outside of working hours to do so in a statewide election. Though an employee can take as much time as needed to vote, only two hours of this time has to be paid leave. Employers must not require the use of paid vacation or other types of accrued paid time off for this.

Additionally, as outlined in California Election Code section 14001, employers have to post a notice advising employees of provisions for taking paid leave to vote in statewide elections. The notice has to be posted conspicuously at the place of work, if practicable, or elsewhere where it can be seen as employees come and go to their place of work, not less than 10 days before every statewide election.

Overtime Pay

California’s overtime laws require that non-exempt employees earn one and a half times their regular rate of pay when they work extra hours outside of the 40-hour a week limit. In some cases, this increases to double-time such as if they work more than 12 hours in a workday, or more than 8 hours on the seventh consecutive day in a workweek.

Federal overtime pay and minimum wage laws remain in effect for non-exempt employees.

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

The Benefits of Paid Holidays

With California’s laws and government codes requiring that employers provide several different types of paid leave, an employer might decide that adding paid holidays on top of that would be overkill. However, doing so is only going to hold your business back in the long run. There are numerous benefits to offering paid holidays that improve your productivity and profitability.

#1. Paid Holidays Attract High-Quality Employees

With so many business owners providing paid holidays, choosing not to means putting yourself further behind your competitors. Ever since the pandemic, employees pay increased attendance to the relationship between working hours and their mental and physical health. This has manifested in many of them caring about and making use of paid holiday leave to maintain a better work-life balance.

While not every employee is going to approach paid holiday offerings with this level of consciousness, many of the high-quality employees, the ones that have more options of where they work, will. Since these are the types of workers that improve profitability through their skill level and work ethic, it’s worth doing everything you can to attract them to your workforce.

#2. Paid Holidays Improve Your Work Environment

Allowing your team members to take time off means you’re giving them a chance to catch their breath, detach from work, and engage in leisurely activities. This provides a very real mental and physical health benefit to workers and can result in them coming back to work recharged and ready to work. In some cases, it might even make them more productive than if they hadn’t taken time off at all. Happy and healthy workers have better moods, which contributes to a more productive work environment overall.

There’s also the risk that the lack of paid holidays in an employer’s policy can result in the opposite effect: negative attitudes, burnout, and a toxic workplace.

#3. Paid Holidays Save Money

Toxic workplaces and employee burnout are not the worst possible side-effect to employees not taking time away from work. Employee termination is. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 45% of quitting workers cited a lack of good benefits such as health insurance and PTO.

The amount it costs to replace a worker varies greatly, but estimates from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) land at around six to nine months of an employee’s salary.

That is an amount that no employer should be eager to tangle with when thin margins of profitability can make or break a business.

Track Paid Holidays and Employee Leave with Buddy Punch

Now that we’ve thoroughly explained how paid holidays function in California, it’s worth shining a light on how time management software can make it easy to track all types of paid leave. From holidays to PTO accruals and more, workforce management software like our very own Buddy Punch makes it easy for an employer to keep up with their team members.

For example, Buddy Punch’s PTO Management Feature allows you to track the most common types of PTO as well as create your own custom types. If an employee puts in a leave request, you can set it so that you and your administrators receive notifications to approve or deny the request. Buddy Punch also enables you to take things a step further, with an option to enable a self-service approach to PTO. Enable this on an employee-by-employee basis to let trusted team members be automatically approved for their requested time off.

PTO is just one feature Buddy Punch offers to improve your workforce management. Our tool has automatic time tracking, employee scheduling, and Built-In Payroll, making it a viable all-in-one software for any business owner. Click here to learn more.

Paid Holidays might seem like a downside come holiday season, but in the long term they contribute to your business’s success. This guide should have equipped you with everything you need to know to juggle holidays and operate successfully in the state of California.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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

There is one type of PTO that is mandatory in California, and that’s Sick Leave. All other types of PTO are not mandatory in the state.

Since when has Sick Leave been mandatory in California?

Since January 1, 2024.

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

Yes. If an employee leaving for any reason has unused vacation time, a California employer is responsible for paying out the unused time off in the employee’s final paycheck.

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?

There is nothing in California state law that requires an employer to pay a premium rate for work on holidays, Saturdays, or Sundays, so Holiday pay is likely to be an employee’s basic rate of pay. Note that this is only the case if an employee is not working in excess of either eight hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek.

How much is the minimum wage in California?

As of January 1, 2024, the minimum wage in California in $16.00/hour for all employees. For fast food restaurant employees, the minimum wage has been $20.00/hour since April 1, 2024.

Official State Resources

Disclaimer: Not Legal Advice

This blog post provides a general overview of California Holiday & Paid Leave Laws but does not constitute legal advice, nor does it replace an attorney-client relationship. 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 California, it is essential to consult with a labor law attorney or employment lawyer 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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