Can I be Forced to Work on Christmas Day?

Author: Declan Barbour
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With the lead up to Christmas well and truly underway, the majority of people are looking forward to being able to relax and celebrate with their families when the big day comes. However, unfortunately for some, it will not be Santa they are setting their alarms for.

It is reported that around 1 million people work on Christmas day every year in the UK. This mostly consists of civil servants, clergy, health and care staff and hospitality staff. Whilst most of these professions are “key workers” the question may arise (particularly in the hospitality sector), can your employer force you to work on Christmas day?

There is no official right that states you can refuse to work on Christmas day. Workers can apply to take it off using their annual paid leave although this is not a guarantee. Employers are also not obliged to give workers time off on Christmas due to religious reasons although the employee could have a claim for discrimination if they can prove the employer’s intentions were that of religious bias or prejudice and not down do a valid reason such as ensuring they have the right amount of staff for the day’s work.

Employers are also not obliged to offer extra pay or bonuses to employees working throughout the Christmas period.

Everything discussed above will be subject to the type of employment agreement you have with your employer

The majority of businesses and organizations will choose to close on Christmas day allowing for most workers to have Christmas day off, although for many this is not an option. One of the only laws that prevent businesses from opening on Christmas day is the Christmas Day and New Year’s Trading (Scotland) act 2007 which prevents large retail shops from opening on Christmas day.

It is worth noting that Mitchells Roberton staff will be enjoying Christmas with their families. The office will close at 12:30pm on Friday 24th December and re-open on Wednesday 5th January at 9am.

If you have any questions or are seeking any advice on any of the issues discussed above please contact us on 0141 552 3422 or by email at

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