For some organisations, organising staff rotas over the Christmas period can be a long and painful task.  This is particular, but not exclusive to the retail, health, care and hospitality sectors. In many cases, staff are unable to take time off at all.  

In other sectors including manufacturing and services, the business shut down at a certain time is mandatory and staff are required to take holiday.

 

Can staff be made to work at Christmas?

Christmas is a busy time of year and so it is possible for an employer to deny staff to take holiday during such times.  Even if this isn’t written into an employee’s contract if the denial of holiday at Christmas has become a standard practice it then becomes incorporated by custom and practice. 

Sectors including hospitality, health and care will certainly have a requirement for staff to work on Christmas day.  Many staff receive additional time off in lieu or increased pay rates for working Bank Holidays - although this is not a legal entitlement.  It’s important to reiterate that whilst an employer may deny holiday at certain times of the year they cannot deny an employee taking any leave at all.

 

Can staff be made to take holiday at Christmas?

Similarly to being able to dictate when holiday may not be taken, employers may also dictate exactly when holidays are taken.

In the manufacturing sector, for example, there is a traditional two week shut down in the Summer because the continental supply chain doesn’t make it viable to operate during this time.  As such, staff are required to take holidays at this point; and it is considered to a reasonable request.  In education, teachers may only take holidays during periods of pupil school holidays. 

Either way, holiday restrictions must be reasonable should be approached consistently and fairly to avoid the employer being at risk of poor performance from maligned staff, and also at risk from legal action from employees.

Here at Robertsons, we have a strong employment law team and we‘re here to advise and support employers on matters of discrimination, employment contracts, redundancy and HR consultancy. Email law@robsols.co.uk and we'll be happy to help!