As commonly happens at this time of year, some federal employees have started asking whether they will get extra time off without charge to leave around the holidays.

While there is no answer yet—such an announcement typically doesn’t come until around mid-December—with the Christmas Day federal holiday falling on a Friday this year, the precedent is in favor a grant of at least a half day off on the previous day.


A grant of a full day off most commonly occurs when the holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, to create a four-day weekend. When the 25th falls on a Sunday or a Monday there typically is no grant of additional time off because the holiday is observed on Monday.

When the 25th falls on a Wednesday, Friday or Saturday, the most common practice has been to grant a half-day off. President Obama gave half-days on Thursday the 24th in both 2009 and 2015, for example.

However, President Trump broke with that pattern last year by granting a full day off on Tuesday the 24th. Federal personnel officials said at the time that they were surprised but added that the action could have the effect of setting a new precedent that any grant of time off moving forward will be for a full day.

Trump’s announcement last year came on the late side, as did his grant of a full day off the prior year on a Monday when the holiday fell on a Tuesday; they were issued on the 18th and 19th, respectively (in 2017 the holiday fell on a Monday and there was no extra time off).

In any case, a grant of time off is at a President’s discretion and past practice is not binding. Also, 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.

Employees wanting to be sure to have additional time off around the holiday might want to go ahead and request to use annual leave or other paid leave standing to their credit. Any excused absence granted would substitute for previously scheduled leave time, under past practice. Also, 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.