Possibly an odd title for a September article but in reality Christmas is just around the corner, so it pays to think ahead!
Ebenezer Scrooge famously complained that it was not ‘convenient’ or ‘fair’ to expect him to give employees a Christmas holiday. We’re more enlightened these days – we may no longer send children up the chimney, but when it comes to Christmas there are a few surprises in store!
Are workers entitled to Christmas Day off?
There is no automatic right to time off on Christmas Day. Check the terms of engagement – some contracts provide for Bank Holiday working. Conversely, other contracts include clauses that a set number of days must be reserved for possible use over Christmas; although this in itself may not entitle the worker to holiday in the festive period.
If an organisation may need staff to work over Christmas, if only as a skeleton workforce, it should review its contracts to ensure terms do not preclude the ability to request staff work during this period. Holiday policies are also helpful for providing additional information such as how conflicting requests will be dealt with to avoid business disruption.
Timely reminders to all staff informing them about Christmas working/holiday requests can help avoid festive fall-outs!
Can we force employees to take holiday over Christmas?
Many organisations’ contracts of employment include clauses stating that employees must reserve a specified number of days to be taken when the business is closed. Furthermore, employers have a statutory right to direct an employee to take annual leave, although this should be approached cautiously and in line with the prescribed requirements.
Can we dismiss someone for refusing to work over Christmas?
Refusals to work could trigger disciplinary action for failure to comply with the employer’s instructions/not fulfilling contractual obligations. Disciplinary sanctions could include dismissal. However, dismissal for a first instance refusal is often likely to be unfair; it’s therefore advisable to seek legal advice before dismissing as it could otherwise be costly.
What happens if Christmas Day falls on a non-working day?
If public Bank Holidays (e.g. Christmas and Boxing Day) are included as part of their contractual holiday entitlement and fall on days not ordinarily worked, the worker can take that holiday at another time.
For advice on this and other employment law issues, contact Wilson Browne Solicitors on 0800 088 6004 or visit www.wilsonbrowne.co.uk
(Image of Nikita Shergill – Chartered Legal Executive at Wilson Browne Solicitors)