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  • Q&A: Can I make an employee work over Christmas if I’m short-staffed?

Q&A: Can I make an employee work over Christmas if I’m short-staffed?

In the third blog in our employment law series, we look at whether you can make your staff work over Christmas—even if you’ve promised them time off…

First published on Thursday, Aug 13, 2020

Last updated on Thursday, Nov 28, 2019

2 min read

Christmas is always a tricky time when it comes to staff holidays.

Because everyone wants time off at Christmas. But that doesn’t mean you can afford to have everyone off work at the same time.

So, can you make employees work over the festive period? We ask one of our employment law experts to answer this awkward HR problem.


One of my employees has asked if she can have Christmas off work.

I already verbally agreed that she could—if she worked Christmas last year, which she did—but now this Christmas has come around I could really do with her being in again…

Can I make her work it?

Our HR expert’s answer:

“As an employer, you’re responsible for arranging when your staff are in work. So yes, you could tell your employee you can’t give her time off during the busy Christmas period. But that might not be the best idea…

“Seeing as you already verbally agreed she could have this Christmas off, you should probably honour this.

“Making her work when you’ve already said she can have time off could result in her making a formal grievance against you. She might even consider lodging a constructive dismissal claim if she’s made expensive arrangements for her Christmas break, such as travelling to visit family.

“To avoid these sorts of situations, make sure you set out details about taking annual leave during busy periods in your employee contracts and company policies.”

Got a question of your own?

Speak to one of our friendly HR experts today. They’ll give you confidential legal advice on any employment law problem you face, and they’re available 24/7.

So whether you need a quick answer to a niggling question or advice in an HR crisis, call BrightAdvice on 0800 783 2806.

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