There are hundreds of public and bank holidays observed worldwide, which can prove challenging for an international business like yours. How do you choose which holidays your colleagues take off? What’s the best way to handle regular staff absences? And how can you be inclusive of a wide variety of celebrations?
Despite the difficulties, successfully managing public holidays worldwide is essential for building an effective distributed team. This article will reveal all the tips and tricks you need to get started.
Managing Public Holidays for Global Teams Is Challenging - but Rewarding!
Managing public and bank holidays on an international scale isn’t easy, but there are many benefits if you get it right. By overcoming challenges like time-off logistics and understanding local laws, you can make your global business a better and more attractive place to work.
- Enhance employee well-being and engagement by giving team members time to participate in important events and traditions.
- Create a healthy company culture that encourages employees to disconnect and enjoy time off.
- Keep teams productive even while some colleagues are away.
- Foster diversity, equity, and inclusion by celebrating a wide range of international holidays as a team.
- Streamline and automate processes to give your HR and People teams the freedom to focus on bigger projects.
Later we’ll outline some tips and tricks to help you overcome the challenges and achieve those results, but first, let’s define what a public holiday is and how they differ around the world.
What Is a Public Holiday?
A public holiday is typically a non-working day, defined by law, that marks a nationally significant occasion, such as the anniversary of a country’s independence. Public holidays may also be referred to as “legal holidays,” “bank holidays,” or “national holidays.” They can be religious or secular, celebratory or reflective.
Public & Bank Holidays Around the World
Each country and territory celebrates different holidays. While some only have a few, others have upwards of 20. For example, Sri Lanka has 25 national holidays, while Mexico only has seven. Some countries have additional regional holidays too.
The labor laws regarding public holidays differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, some jurisdictions like New Zealand stipulate that employees are entitled to paid days off of work on public holidays. If an employee does work on these days, they may be entitled to receive extra pay and/or a day in lieu.
In other jurisdictions, such as the UK, there are no national laws requiring paid time off for public holidays or bank holidays. However, it may still be customary or stipulated within employment contracts or collective agreements.
Which Public & Bank Holidays Should Your Colleagues Observe?
The simplest and most common option is for workers to take their entitled time off on the public holidays observed in their country of residence. For example, a team member based in France will take time off on the public holidays celebrated in France. This helps your company remain compliant with local regulations and allows your team members to have space to recharge and disconnect from work.
While this policy works for most, it might not be optimal for all your team members. For example, a team member based outside their home country may want to celebrate their own national or religious holidays instead.
Unfortunately, “swapping” public holidays isn’t always straightforward. While some jurisdictions take a relaxed approach to employees working on local holidays, other jurisdictions are stricter. This could make it tricky to offer total flexibility for your teams while remaining compliant.
One solution could be to offer “floating holidays.” This concept allows your talent to work on a national holiday and take another day off in lieu. They can then use this substitute day off to celebrate more meaningful occasions.
Again the legality of floating holidays depends on local labor laws and regulations. Instead, you could choose to provide a more generous annual leave policy or implement special leave days to encourage team members to take off days that are important to them.
5 Tips for Managing Public & Bank Holidays Globally
From dedicated policies to global calendars to asynchronous communication, here are our top tips for managing national holidays effectively.
1. Create & Communicate Holiday Policies
Effectively managing public holidays worldwide starts with creating clear and compliant HR policies. This may mean you need to create unique policies for each country and region in which your team members are based. Remember, what’s permitted in one jurisdiction may not be in another. That’s why we recommend seeking expert help to navigate local regulations.
Your policies should define:
- Which public and bank holidays your team members should take off, so there’s no confusion.
- If and how they need to book off time for public holidays.
- If annual leave is inclusive or exclusive of national holidays.
- How teammates should notify team members of their absence in advance.
Once created, be sure to store your policies in a central location, such as Notion, and make them accessible to the whole company. You should also integrate these policies into the onboarding process so new hires understand how and when to take public holidays from their first day.
2. Use a Global Holidays Calendar
Managing so many different holidays across multiple countries and regions can be a logistical nightmare! For example, some countries compensate the Monday after a bank holiday when it falls on a weekend, while others don’t. Googling each and every case isn’t practical and distracts from larger HR projects. That’s where using a global holidays calendar can be a big help.
Many HRIS platforms have this functionality and automatically calculate and implement international public holidays for you once configured. Some even integrate with Google Calendar, so your colleagues don’t have to fill out leave in two places.
If you don’t yet have an HRIS, there are many calendar and team planning tools available instead. Timetastic, which integrates with Slack, is just one example.
Once your global holidays calendar is ready, make it accessible to the whole team so everyone can see when their colleagues are taking time off. This can help them plan ahead and manage upcoming projects more efficiently.
3. Encourage Team Members to Rest
According to Project: Time Off’s 2018 report, employees who feel supported in taking time off are happier with their job, company, relationships, and health. It’s clear employers play a significant role in making time off a success.
Here are just some of the ways you can create a positive vacation culture and empower team members to get the most out of their public holidays:
- Lead by example - set clear boundaries and expectations for your own time off.
- Communicate the importance of taking time off and unplugging from work completely, such as switching off notifications.
- Set up company training sessions on wellbeing, stress, prioritization, etc.
- Ask colleagues to notify their team members in advance of national holidays, whether in a team standup, Slack message, or Google Calendar alert, or all of the above. Overcommunication is often best!
- Encourage your team to create work coverage plans and handover documents.
- Assign a deputy to each team member who will pick up work and queries while they’re away.
- Make use of Slack statuses and out-of-office messages.
4. Prioritize Asynchronous Communication
Working asynchronously isn’t just useful for managing work across time zones; it can also enable team members to take time off to disconnect without disrupting workflows.
Asynchronous communication relies on effective documentation, including writing down processes, sharing skills, and recording meetings. This documentation ensures that an individual’s professional knowledge is easily accessible even when they’re away, reducing bottlenecks and allowing work to continue without them.
This means team members feel much more comfortable taking time off and fully unplugging.
5. Celebrate All Occasions
While many US and European-based companies have traditionally put a huge focus on Christmas, it’s worth remembering that not everyone in your global team will celebrate it. Instead, encourage your colleagues to acknowledge and celebrate a wide range of different holidays and occasions throughout the year, whether cultural or faith-based.
It’s near-impossible (and impractical) for people or HR teams to proactively mark every single day of cultural or religious significance, so let your team members take the lead and celebrate the days that are most important to them.
For example, you could set up a special Slack channel for celebrations and then encourage colleagues to share messages, photos, or educational pieces around their special holidays.
Alternatively, team leads can encourage colleagues to talk about their upcoming holidays in social catch-ups. That way, everyone has a chance to learn about each other’s cultures and get involved in the festivities!