Can I refuse to work on Christmas Day? Your employment rights

Can I refuse to work on Christmas Day? Your employment rights

December 5, 2018

The latest figures publicly available from the Office for National Statistics reveal that 3.3 per cent of people in employment had to work on Christmas Day in 2014.

This included people working as care workers, nurses, chefs, police offers and the clergy.

But with bank holidays coming up on Christmas Day and Boxing Day you may be wondering whether you have to work on these dates.

Do I have to work on Christmas Day?

Next year, England and Wales will have eight bank or public holidays, Scotland will have nine, and Northern Ireland will have 10.

But according to the Government, which sets bank holidays, there is no automatic right for workers to have these days off as paid leave – and this includes Christmas Day.

Whether you have to work on upcoming bank holidays on Christmas Day and Boxing Day is entirely up to your employer and the contract you agreed with them.

How to resolve a problem with your employer

Step 1: speak to your employer

Try having an informal chat with your employer or HR department. Explain your concerns and try to resolve the issue.

Step 2: raise a grievance

Check if your employer has a formal grievance procedure you can use. Even if they haven’t, you can still raise a grievance – for example by writing a letter.

You could say something like: “My contract states my rights regarding bank holiday working. You have breached these terms.”

Check if your employer has a trade union as it may be able to help.

Step 3: get advice

If your employer doesn’t respond, or they do but it’s not the response you wanted, you should contact your local Citizens Advice. They’ll be able to advise you on what to do next – for example, whether you can take your case to an employment tribunal.

Some employers will choose to include bank holidays as part of their staff's statutory annual leave or they may say staff get the days off on top of their statutory annual leave.

Retailer Home Bargains, for example, has said that staff can have Christmas Day and Boxing Day as paid leave and the Boxing Day closure won't count towards their annual allowance.

There is also some respite for those working in larger shops.

In England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, shops over 280 square metres in size have to shut on Christmas Day.

They must also close on Easter Sunday in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (not Scotland).

But there are some exemptions to this rule, including airport and railway station outlets, service station outlets, registered pharmacies, farms selling their own produce, and shops selling motor or bike supplies and accessories.

See for the full list in England and Wales.

What if I can't work because of religious reasons?

If you're told you can't take a day's annual leave because of religious reasons, you may have a claim for indirect religious discrimination, according to Hannah Parsons, legal advice manager of DAS Law.

This would happen if your employer fails to grant you annual leave for Christmas Day and you can point to other workers not receiving the same discrimination based on their religion.

Can I get extra pay for working on Christmas Day?

Because there's no automatic right not to work on public holidays, it also means it's entirely up to employers whether you get a boost to your pay when you do have to come in.

If you're unsure what your work's policy is, you'll need to check your contract or speak directly to your employer.

You may also be able to REFUSE to work on Christmas Day on religious grounds – here's what you need to know.

NHS staff can get two free Uber rides if they’re working over Christmas – here’s how.

Plus, here's everything you should never do at your work Christmas party.

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