Employers will be less generous this year than last in providing their workers Thanksgiving holiday leave. Levels of gift giving, however, have remained virtually unchanged for the past six years, according to BNA's annual survey of year-end holiday plans.

Nearly three-fourths of surveyed employers (74 percent) have designated both Thanksgiving Day (November 25) and the day after as paid holidays in 2010, down from 79 percent in 2009. As in previous years, nearly all surveyed employers (98 percent) have scheduled Thanksgiving Day itself as a paid holiday for employees.

But, the numbers of employers requiring some employees to work on Thanksgiving Day are near record lows. Nearly three in 10 employers (29 percent) will require some employees to work on Thanksgiving Day. This figure is virtually unchanged from 2009 (28 percent), but is down noticeably from those that mandated Thanksgiving Day work in 2008 (33 percent) and 2007 (36 percent). There has been an almost continuous decline in required Thanksgiving work since 2002, when nearly half of surveyed employers (47 percent) required at least some employees to work on this holiday.

The survey also finds that:

  • Twelve percent of employers plan to give their workers some kind of holiday gift this Thanksgiving, compared with 11 percent last year and is unchanged from the 12 percent of employers that gave gifts in 2006 through 2008. Thanksgiving holiday gift giving is down sharply from the high of 23 percent observed in 2004 and the 15 to 18 percent range seen from 1995 to 2003. Levels of Thanksgiving holiday gift-giving are comparable to those seen in 1993 and 1994 during the "jobless recovery" that followed the 1990-1991 recession.
  • Gift certificates are the Thanksgiving holiday gift of choice for employers, followed closely by the holiday turkey.

For eight of the past 10 years, gift certificates for food items have been the leading Thanksgiving gift and 2010 is no exception. Seven percent of surveyed employers will be giving employees gift certificates this Thanksgiving, with the venerable turkey in contention for the gift of choice but coming up just short, offered by 4 percent of employers.

  • Security/public safety and service/maintenance staff are the most likely category of worker to be required to work on Thanksgiving Day in 2010.
  • Workers in manufacturing enterprises and smaller organizations are most likely to celebrate a four-day holiday weekend. More than nine out of 10 manufacturers (93 percent) will give employees both Thanksgiving Day and the following Friday as paid holidays. This compares with seven in 10 employers in nonmanufacturing (70 percent) and 67 percent in nonbusiness concerns (such as hospitals, educational facilities, and government organizations).
  • A four-day holiday weekend will be much more prevalent in smaller organizations with fewer than 1,000 employees (79 percent) than in larger concerns with 1,000 employees or more (59 percent).
  • The proportion of employers that will offer a four-day holiday weekend does not differ significantly between unionized (73 percent) and nonunionized establishments (75 percent).
  • Employees who must work on Thanksgiving Day can expect to receive additional compensation. Overtime pay (65 percent) in the form of either time-and-a-half (33 percent) or double-time pay (32 percent) is the most frequent form of compensation offered to those who work on Thanksgiving Day.

BNA's survey of year-end holiday practices has been conducted since 1980. This year's report is based on responses from 315 human resource and employee relations executives representing a cross-section of U.S. employers, both public and private.