Home Business Services Can you make staff work on Christmas Day?

Can you make staff work on Christmas Day?

working on Christmas day

Whilst most of the UK will be off work on Christmas Day, perhaps waiting for the Queen’s Speech or snoozing after too much lunch, there are businesses which have to open.

Whether you’re in the hospitality, care or entertainment sectors – there may be a need for your business to run as normal even though it’s Christmas.

Whether staff can be required to work on the 25th December or not, depends on their contract of employment.

Right to time off

Where staff’s contracts state that they are entitled to take bank holidays off, they will have a contractual right to not work on Christmas Day. This will also cover other bank holidays during the festive season, including Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

This may not always be the case, however, as some contracts will not give staff bank holidays off work.

Where there is no contractual right to time off and Christmas Day falls on an employee’s normal working day, they will be required to attend work.

The only way to avoid working this day will generally be through booking holiday leave, however the employer’s holiday policy can prevent employees from taking holiday during certain periods – if Christmas is a busy time of the year, it is likely they will have a rule in place saying staff can’t use their holiday in this time.

What about a religious request?

Christmas is a Christian holiday.

If Christian employees are required to work on this day, they may make a request to be granted time off for religious reasons. When such a request is received, employers need to consider:

  1. A request for religious time off can be refused, however this may be indirect religious discrimination as the requirement for all staff to work this day puts the religious individual at a disadvantage;
  2. Before refusing the request, make sure there is a legitimate and objective business reason for requiring staff to work on Christmas Day – this will allow you to justify the discrimination claim so long as the refusal was a proportionate means of achieving your legitimate business aim;
  3. Even if you do require all staff to work, can this request be approved if your business can cope without this one employee? Can you agree a different arrangement, such as they get Christmas off but have to work New Year’s Day?

Although you can refuse the request where you have a legitimate reason to do so, considering whether this can be approved could save you time and hassle in the long run.