Fonseca Law Solicitors


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Your rights when asked to work on Christmas Day

While many will enjoy a lengthy break over the Christmas period, others will be not so fortunate. Some industries experience double the workload as business may reach it's peak during the festive season – but this is often with fewer staff than normal.

With many looking forward to spending the festive period with family and friends, others will see business continue as usual, with restaurants, pubs, NHS staff and taxi drivers just a few who may be setting an alarm for much of the Christmas season.

In some cases, this can include Christmas Day, but can you legally refuse to work if your boss rota's you in for December 25th?

Read through your employment contract

If you've been asked to work on Christmas Day, the only way you'll know if you're obligated to do so is by checking your contract of employment and seeing what's there in black and white. This is usually a written document but doesn't necessarily have to be, and the terms can also be found in what is implied through custom and practice.

If Christmas Day happens to fall on one of your standard working days, and your employer is open for business on public holidays and is expecting you to work, then chances are you will be contractually obliged to do so. You could hand in a request for annual leave on Christmas Day before it arrives, but it's important to remember that your employer will not be obligated to grant you the day off.

Many employers shut down during bank holidays and in this case your contract is likely to entitle you to take those public holiday dates in addition to, or as part of, your annual leave entitlement in which case you would not be required to work on Christmas Day.

Religious belief

If you are a Christian, for example, and do not want to work on Christmas Day but find that your employer is insisting that you must work, you cannot refuse to turn up due to religious reasons.

However, there may be a case for a claim against indirect religious discrimination if your employer refuses to grant annual leave for Christmas Day provided you can establish that the refusal places you at a disadvantage when compared with employees of other or no religious faith.

An employer may be able to successfully justify a claim of this sort if they are able to establish that their decision was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, such as ensuring that sufficient staff were working on that particular day to adequately provide a service.

Retail staff

There is just one law that ensures many shop workers are able to get Christmas Day itself off, and that is the Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004. This law was introduced to impose a ban on Christmas Day trading for large retail stores that are more than 280 square metres in size, in England and Wales.

If you're seeking professional legal advice relating to employment law or any other aspect of law, don't hesitate to get in touch with our expert solicitors. We are based in the heart of Ebbw Vale, South Wales, and can be contacted by telephone on 01495 303124, by e-mail at or by completing our online contact form.