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Being home for the holidays a nice perk

Many workers can look forward to getting a few extra days off in 2007

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If you were like me, you waited a little too long to ask for time off on days surrounding the holidays.

Most workers like myself want the extra time off to travel, celebrate and spend time with family and friends.

Next year, though, more workers may not have to scramble for the time off. A growing number of employers plan to provide extra holiday days off in 2007, according to a new survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. In many cases, the calendar is helping to provide the extra time.

Seventy-two percent of companies plan to close the day after Thanksgiving next year, according to the survey of 502 human resources professionals. A separate survey in February found that 63 percent of 469 employers planned to be closed this year.

For the day before Christmas 2007, 48 percent of employers plan to close their offices -- Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year. The day after Christmas will be a holiday for 16 percent of companies in 2007, while 8 percent plan to be closed this year.

Some workers could celebrate the new year in style, with 27 percent of employers planning to close on New Year's Eve next year -- it also falls on a Sunday this year.

It should be noted that Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve fall on a Monday next year, meaning employers might find it logistically easier to close that day. Most are likely to be closed the following day to celebrate the actual holiday.

John A. Challenger, a workplace expert and chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement company in Chicago, says providing extra days off during the holidays creates a perk for workers. An informal survey by the outplacement firm found that 70 percent of 100 human resources executives said their companies would close on the day after Thanksgiving.

"Companies are looking for ways to invest in their people and culture, and create soft benefits that employees appreciate and make them want to stay," Challenger says. "It's a way of creating good will."

Challenger says workers are looking for more three- to four-day weekends, especially since it has gotten harder to take long vacations in a 24-7 economy. And in some cases, business is slow during the period between Christmas and New Year's.

Some workers are getting time off around the holidays, but it's not free.

U.S. workers of Yahoo Inc. will have the week between Christmas and New Year's off this year. The company announced in September that it would close its offices during that period as a cost-cutting move. Some 10,500 workers will have to use their vacation time if they want to be paid for the time off.

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