Puerto Rico Holidays: A Guide for Mainland US Companies

Mainland US companies hiring team members in Puerto Rico will find similarities in holidays and vacation policies on the mainland versus on the island, but they'll find some key differences, too. Read our guide to learn more about holiday policies in Puerto Rico.

Caitlin MacDougall
Caitlin MacDougall
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Puerto Rico enjoys incredibly colorful and exuberant holidays, from the flags that adorn cars and apartment windows on Puerto Rican Independence Day, to the boisterous street festivals of San Sebastián in San Juan. One of the best ways to celebrate these holidays is gathering with friends and family at the beach for a cookout or a party. Many Puerto Ricans enjoy paid time off for holidays, as required by labor laws in Puerto Rico. If an employer mandates that an employee work on a holiday, that employee is entitled to a premium wage.

As a US territory, Puerto Rico's official commonwealth holidays are often shared with US federal holidays, (Mother's Day, or Día de las Madres, for example). Puerto Rico celebrates many more holidays than the US does, however. Below is a list of national holidays in Puerto Rico, as well as holiday policies to keep in mind if you decide to hire employees on the island.

Photo of the beach in Emajagua, Maunabo, Puerto Rico

Public Holidays 🗓

Official public holidays are those recognized by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. These holidays are defined by the Political Code, Article 387. On these bank holidays, all public offices must close. Here is a list of official public holidays celebrated in Puerto Rico, many of which are not just a Puerto Rico holiday, but an official public holiday in the US as well:

  • New Year's Day, or Día de Año Nuevo (January 1)
  • Epiphany, or El Día de los Tres Reyes Magos (January 6)
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (third Monday in January)
  • Washington's Birthday/Presidents' Day, Día de los Presidentes (third Monday in February)
  • American Citizenship Day, or Día de la Ciudadanía Americana (March 2)
  • Emancipation Day, or Día de la Abolición de la Esclavitud (March 22)
  • Good Friday, or Viernes Santo (Friday in late March or Early April)
  • Birthday of José de Diego (April 19)
  • Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
  • Puerto Rican Independence Day, or Día de la Independencia (July 5)
  • Birthday of Don Luis Muñoz Rivera (third Monday in July)
  • celebrates the birthday of a prominent journalist, poet, and politician who advocated  independence from Spain
  • Constitution Day, often called Occupation Day, or Constitución de Puerto Rico (July 24)
  • Commemorates the anniversary of American troops' landing at Guánica in 1898
  • Birthday of José Barbosa, or Natalicio de José Celso Barbosa (July 27)
  • Celebrates the life of Dr. José Barbosa, which was a medical doctor, political leader, and founder of the Republican Party, who was an early advocate for Puerto Rico's statehood
  • Labor Day, September Día del Trabajo, (first Monday in September)
  • Christopher Columbus Day, or Día del Descubrimiento de América (second Monday in October)
  • Veteran's Day, or Día del Veterano Día del Armisticio (November 11)
  • Discovery of Puerto Rico Day, or Día del Descubrimiento de Puerto Rico (November 19)
  • Commemorates landing of Christopher Columbus on Puerto Rico's coast on his second voyage to the New World
  • Thanksgiving  Day (fourth Thursday in November)
  • Emancipation Day, or Día de la Abolición (December 2)
  • Christmas Eve, or Día de Noche Buena (December 24)
  • Christmas Day, or Día de Navidad (December 25)

There may be additional holidays in Puerto Rico, depending on the municipality. Throughout the country, Puerto Rico observes fiestas patronales, which are religious festival holidays that celebrate a patron saint or virgin. Each of the 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico has a saint who represents their community.

For instance, the patron saint in San Juan is St. John the Baptiste, hence St. John's Day, or La Noche de San Juan on June 24. Each celebration may last from one to five days, and consists of parades, bright decorations around the town, firework shows, amusement rides, and feasts. These holidays are not considered bank holidays.

And in the town of Hatillo on the north coast, the townspeople celebrate Festival de las Máscaras on December 28. It's a similar holiday to the way Louisiana celebrates Mardi Gras in the US, in that "krewes", or groups of costumed revelers, band together to play practical jokes and ornament cars, trucks, and floats with florid decorations. These krewes parade along roadways throughout the town for half a day, cheered by locals.

Religious Holidays ✝️

The majority of Puerto Ricans are Catholic, about 56% of the island. As such, many religious holidays are public holidays as well, and follow the Christian calendar. There are a few holidays that do not have official Puerto Rico public holiday status. Here is a list of all the religious holidays in Puerto Rico:

  • Eve of Epiphany (January 5)
  • Epiphany (January 6)
  • Three Kings Day, or El Día de los Tres Reyes Magos (January 6)
  • San Sebastián Festival (January 20)
  • Held in the third week of January, this is one of the biggest celebrations in San Juan, where Puerto Rico takes to the streets with music, arts, food, alcohol, and revelry.
  • First Day of Lent (six weeks before Easter)
  • Palm Sunday (Sunday before Easter Sunday)
  • Holy Week (Palm Sunday through Easter)
  • Good Friday (Friday Before Easter)
  • Easter Sunday (the day falls between March 22 and April 25)
  • Saint John's Eve, or Noche de San Juan (June 23)
  • Friends and family gather for a feast to celebrate the birthday of Saint John the Baptist
  • Saint John's Day (June 24)
  • commemorates St. John the Baptist's birthday
  • Christmas Eve (December  24)
  • Christmas Day (December 25)

Holy Week 🗓

Holy Week is the most important religious holiday season in Puerto Rico, and it is typically quite busy for tourists and Puerto Ricans alike, as the week of holidays falls in the spring, when the weather gets warm and the beaches are pleasant.

It's customary for businesses to close on Good Friday, or Viernes Santo, which is the Friday before Easter Sunday and considered a commonwealth official holiday. On this day, it's not uncommon to come across a colorful festival or religious procession in the street. The following day, Saturday, many Puerto Ricans will attend midnight mass in anticipation of Easter. Easter is not considered a federal holiday and regular working hours are observed.

Any worker who works on Good Friday or Easter is entitled to 1.5 times their regular rate or salary.

Christmas Eve 🎅🏽

Just like in the United States, Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays in Puerto Rico. Like in the US, the holiday season includes traditions like waiting for Santa Claus and decorating Christmas trees, but the tone may overall seem more religious to observers from the US. Misa de Gallo is the midnight Mass that Catholics in Puerto Rico attend on Christmas Eve, where the focus is more on the nativity than getting presents.

Christmas Day and Epiphany 🌟

Christmas Day is considered a commonwealth official holiday and many do not work on that day. Relative to the continental US, Christmas isn't as important to Puerto Rico as Christmas Eve. Instead, Christmas Eve is the day where families have a big feast and exchange gifts before going to mass.

After Christmas comes Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, the day commemorating when it is believed the three wise men visited Jesus after his birth. In Puerto Rico, the holiday lasts eight days, from January 6 to January 14, but only the first day is considered a commonwealth official holiday.

Workers are entitled to a mandatory Christmas bonus, which is 3% of their salary. There is a $600 USD cap on the bonus for those who work more than 1,350 hours that year, and if an employer has 15 employees or less, they only have to pay a maximum of $300 per employee. Each bonus must be delivered before the official holiday, between November 15-December 15, or the employer must pay a late fee.

Vacation and PTO in Puerto Rico 🏖

Puerto Rican employees are entitled to up to 1.25 vacation days per month. These vacation days can be fractionated so long as each period lasts five consecutive days during the year. The number of vacation days an employee receives depends on their job tenure at the business where they are employed. In the first year of employment, the employee earns 0.5 vacation days per month. After 1 to 5 years, the employee earns 0.75 vacation days per month. 5 to 15 years of service earns an employee 1 day of vacation a month, and after 15 years of service, the employee is entitled to 1.25 days a month.

The number of days for sick leave follows the same guidelines: during the first year of their employment, an employee can earn 0.5 days of sick leave per month, and then 0.75 days of sick leave after 1 to 5 years of employment. After 5 to 15 years, the employee is entitled to 1 day of sick leave per month.

In order to qualify for sick leave or vacation leave, the employee must work at least 130 hours a week. If hours worked are not tracked at the company or are indeterminate, it is assumed that the hours worked average to 8 hours per day.

Photos of palm trees lined in front of older buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Hiring in Puerto Rico 👩🏽‍💻

Do you want to build a remote team in the Caribbean? Puerto Rico is a great place to start, especially because of its proximity to the US. It is important to pay attention to worker classification as you consider hiring, namely the difference between employees and independent contractors. Because Puerto Rico is a US territory, its labor laws are very similar to those in the States, so they will be familiar to HR teams based in the US. In most cases, US federal law has a minimum standard for employee rights, like prohibiting discrimination based on race, sex, and religion. Puerto Rico establishes additional standards, like mandates for vacation days, termination requirements, and holiday bonuses.

Employees

In an employment relationship, the employee is subordinate to the employer, and the employer has more oversight over how the employee works. Often the employee will work on the employer's premises, use the employer's tools, and work specific hours determined by the employer. The employee is economically dependent on the business that employs them.

Employees are also entitled to certain benefits, like health care, paid leave, and vacation time.

Independent Contractors

Independent contractors have more control over where, when, and how they work. Often they use their own tools, work their own hours, and are not completely economically dependent on one employer, since they can be employed by third parties. It is not possible for an employee to work as a contractor at the same company.

Not only can contractors work for third parties, but also they can determine the remuneration paid for a specific task. Some examples of independent contractors might be domestic workers, app developers, construction workers, or technicians.

Independent contractors do not have the same benefits as employees, such as health insurance, legal representation, and, as you may have guessed, paid leave or vacation time.

Making sure your company is compliant with Puerto Rican laws

There are many factors to consider when hiring overseas, and we're not just talking federal holidays. These factors include compliance, worker classification, and local laws. Depending on where your company establishes an international office, the rules and regulations can vary. Even in a US territory such as Puerto Rico, one can't assume that the territory follows the same set of labor guidelines.

Pilot specializes in global payroll, benefits, and compliance for remote teams. Our friendly team of experts can help you navigate local rules and regulations, no matter where you decide to expand your company. Our contracts are locally compliant and reviewed by both US and local lawyers. When you partner with Pilot, we pair you with a success manager to assist with compliance in local markets and to create the best experience possible for your hired talent. We even collect W-8 and W-9 tax forms from your team members, and file 1099 forms for you, saving you hours of time.


To learn more about Pilot, request a demo with one of our experts.


⚖️ Legal Disclaimer: The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.


Cover photo by Tatiana Rodriguez on Unsplash

Photo of a beach in Emajagua, Maunabo, Puerto Rico by Alex Mnatsakanov on Unsplash

Photo of street in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, by Alex George on Unsplash

Photo of palm trees in San Juan, Puerto Rico by Jennifer Chen on Unsplash

Caitlin MacDougall
Caitlin MacDougall
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