East Ridge holidays
Number of off days
Sources: Local government agencies, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Happy birthday, East Ridge city employees.
Thanks to a unanimous vote from East Ridge City Council last week, the city's 117 employees can add their birthdays to the list of paid holidays.
The new holiday brings the city's off-day count to 11 -- an average of almost one per month, making East Ridge the city government with the highest number of paid holidays in Hamilton County. The other municipalities in the county offer six to 10 paid holidays.
The bonus comes in the same budget year that employees were given a 3 percent pay raise.
"I feel like the employees deserve it," said Councilman Denny Manning, who originally asked the five-member council if it would consider adding both Veterans Day and Presidents Day as paid holidays. "If we don't care for our employees, we're going to lose them."
Mayor Brent Lambert agreed.
"I think we have been generous, yes. ... I feel like there's a good reason for that. In order to get the best out of folks, you've got to reward them. Our people do more with less than most cities of our size," he said.
The councilmen voted for the measure on both first and second readings during the last two meetings with no opposition. None of the councilmen reached Monday said they were lobbied by staff members for an extra holiday.
But all said that giving birthdays off was a wiser personnel move than adding either Veterans Day or Presidents Day because only one person will be off for each birthday rather than all city employees.
Technically, the extra holiday is considered a "float day" that can be taken any day in the pay period of the birthday.
According to a 2011 employee benefits survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American receives eight days of paid holidays per year. State and local government employees consistently have a higher number of paid days off, with the national average at 11. Federal employees are given 10 holidays each year.
Along with paid holidays, East Ridge operates off a "leave buy back" policy in which the city essentially buys back its employees' unused vacation or sick days at varying rates depending on the length of the employee's service.
East Ridge Councilman Jim Bethune said the high number of holidays could increase the city's appeal as a workplace.
"I've thought long and hard about it, and I don't feel like an extra holiday is going to hurt anything, if we're helping our employees out," he said.
Ron Darden, municipal management consultant with the Municipal Technical Advisory Service at the University of Tennessee, said he did not believe the number of East Ridge's holidays was out of line. It's not unusual for the public sector to have more paid days off than the private sector, he said.
"Usually public agencies get more vacation and holidays. It's easier to give a holiday than it is to give a raise. But it does mean that, down the road, they're going to be short-handed on certain days," said Darden
But Darden said that an extra paid holiday is typically given in lieu of a raise, not in addition to one.
This story was updated on March 13, 2012 to reflect that Hamilton County employees have 10 paid holidays, not 11 as was previously published.