As commonly happens at this time of year, some federal employees have started asking whether they will get time off without charge to leave around the holidays. While there is no answer yet—Presidents have discretion whether to grant time off and such an announcement typically doesn’t come until around mid-December—there is precedent for granting an entire day off for most employees when Christmas Day falls on a Tuesday, as it does this year.

A grant of a full day most commonly has been done to create a four-day weekend. President Bush gave full days off on Monday the 24th in 2001 and 2007, as did President Obama in 2012. Each also gave a full day off on Friday the 26th when the holiday fell on a Thursday, in 2008 and 2014, respectively.


In recent times, presidents also have given employees a half-day off when Christmas Day fell on, and the holiday was observed on, a Wednesday or a Friday, but not—as was true last year—when it fell on a Monday and was preceded by a weekend.

Employees wanting to be sure to have additional time off around the holiday might want to go ahead and request annual leave, assuming it is not already too late to do so. Any excused absence granted would substitute for previously scheduled annual leave time, under past practice.

Any announcement of a government-wide grant of time off typically gives agencies discretion to decide that certain employees must remain on the job for security or other reasons, with overtime or comp time entitlement. Even if there is no general government-wide order, individual offices might give employees time off under informal practices.

Even in years when extra time off was granted around Christmas, there was no such time off a week later for the New Year’s holiday.