Working on Christmas Day – your rights if you end up on the rota

12th December 2018

It's a day of rest for millions, but for others it’s double the workload as business continues as normal – but with fewer staff. Can you refuse? Hannah Parsons outlines your rights.

Most people will be counting down to some much deserved annual leave in a few weeks’ time when Christmas arrives, but for some, it will be business as usual, with restaurants, pubs, taxi drivers and NHS workers among those that will be setting alarms for difficult shifts come December 25.

But if your boss has put you on the rota, can you legally refuse to turn up?

Check your employment contract

Whether or not you have to work on Christmas Day will depend on your contract of employment. That is usually a written document but it does not have to be, and the terms can also be found in what is implied through custom and practice.

If Christmas Day falls on one of your normal working days, and your employer opens for business on public holidays and expects you to work, then you are likely to be contractually obliged

Hannah Parsons

Some employers close down on bank holidays and your contract will entitle you to take those days in addition to, or as part of, your annual leave entitlement in which case you would not be required to work.

However, if Christmas Day falls on one of your normal working days, and your employer opens for business on public holidays and expects you to work, then you are likely to be contractually obliged to work unless you have been granted annual leave.

Religious reasons

If you are a Christian and do not want to work on Christmas Day but your employer insists that you must, you cannot refuse for religious reasons.

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

It is however possible for an employer to justify a claim of this sort if they can establish that their decision was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, such as ensuring that they had sufficient staff to provide a service.

Shop workers

The only law that ensures that many shop workers get Christmas Day itself off is the Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004 which imposes a ban on Christmas Day trading for large shops, over 280 square metres in size, in England and Wales.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created.

Beware the perils of sharing colleagues’ Christmas party antics on social media

Are people allowed to record and share your more embarrassing moments without your permission? What does the law have to say?

December 2019 Learn more
Your rights if it’s too cold in the workplace

As the winter weather arrives with a vengeance, chilly workplaces across the UK are potentially having serious impacts on the health and effectiveness of employees.

January 2019 Learn more

Read more from the DAS Law blog

Employment disputes ‘Self-isolation’ – what it means and its possible impact on your rights and pay

More and more people in the UK are being told to self-isolate to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus. What impact will this have on workers’ rights and pay?

February 2020
Employment disputes Do employees get extra pay on a leap year day?

Every four years, many workers find themselves cramming an extra day of work into an already packed year. But are workers in the UK entitled to extra pay for this extra work?

February 2020
Employment disputes Braving the storms: what every employee and employer needs to know about winter commuting

If you run your own business, bad weather can cause chaos when staff can’t get in. What employment law regulations are in place when handling transport troubles in winter?

February 2020
Employment disputes My employer is advertising my job. Where do I stand?

DAS Law’s Lauren Woolf explains what to do if you find out your employer has been advertising your job without informing you that you are being dismissed.

January 2020
General advice , Employment disputes Beware the perils of sharing colleagues’ Christmas party antics on social media

Are people allowed to record and share your more embarrassing moments without your permission? What does the law have to say?

December 2019
Employment disputes , Goods and services disputes All you need to know about tipping

Are we legally obliged to tip? Does that money actually go to the staff or is it kept by the business owner? Thomas Pertaia has the answers.

December 2019
Employment disputes International Stress Awareness Week: your workplace rights

To mark International Stress Awareness Week, Hannah Parsons, a solicitor at DAS Law, takes a look at what the law says your employer needs to do about stress.

October 2019
Employment disputes , Protecting your business Health and safety and computers

Employers need to manage the risks to their employees of working at computers for long periods of time. DAS Law’s Bethan Mack explains.

October 2019
Employment disputes Is there a time limit for providing an employee with a P45?

As an employer, you are required to tell HMRC when somebody leaves or retires, and deduct and pay the correct tax and National Insurance.

October 2019
Employment disputes What you need to know about pay and wages

The law seeks to provide a fair structure and ensure that we are appropriately compensated for our efforts, and that employers cannot underpay or exploit us when it comes to our wages.

October 2019
Employment disputes How to deal with mental health discrimination at work

There are legal protections in place to support those with a mental health condition. Here’s what you need to know if you are being treated unfairly at work because of your mental health.

October 2019
Employment disputes Don’t get a red card while watching the World Cup at work

If you are planning on watching World Cup matches at work there are a number of important things to consider.

September 2019
Employment disputes Can your boss force you to work the August Bank Holiday?

Can you refuse to work on a bank holiday? DAS Law’s Hannah Parsons outlines your rights.

August 2019