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Working over the Christmas period

Usdaw wants shopworkers to be able to enjoy a decent break over the festive period and negotiates with employers to get the longest possible break for shopworkers and other workers over Christmas.

Usdaw believes all shops should shut at 4pm on Christmas Eve and remain closed on Christmas Day. We urge retailers to support staff who face problems getting to and from work due to transport difficulties over the Christmas/NewYear holiday period.

Workers' rights to a decent break over Christmas, and premium payments for working bank holidays depend largely on their contracts of employment and agreements reached between their employer and trade union. Usdaw campaigns for bank holiday working to be voluntary and for voluntary workers to receive premium pay.

The more members we have, the stronger our voice will be. Join Usdaw today and help us negotiate the best possible deal for workers this Christmas.

Below, we have outlined some general rights around working over the festive period. However, many rights will depend upon the terms and conditions of your employer. If you aren’t sure of your rights to time off over Christmas in your employer, you should speak to the Usdaw Rep in store, or contact your local Union official on 0800 030 80 30.

Will all shops be closed on Christmas Day?
The Christmas Day (Trading) Act prevents shops, except for small convenience stores, from trading on 25 December. Although the legislation allows small convenience stores to trade, Usdaw is urging retailers not to open any stores on Christmas Day. You should check your trading hours to see whether or not your store will be open.

My store is closed on Christmas Day. Will I have to make up the hours?
Some employers require staff to make up lost hours, use holiday entitlement or take unpaid leave for the hours when stores are closed. Usdaw is urging employers to pay staff their normal wages for any contracted hours when stores are closed over Christmas and New Year.

Is working on a public holiday voluntary?
For some workers, working on a designated public holiday is voluntary. For others, working on some or all public holidays is part of the contract. The position on whether working on a public holiday is voluntary is usually explained in your contract, the staff handbook or outlined in agreements between the employer and the Trade Union. Usdaw believes any stores opening on a bank holiday over the festive period should be staffed by volunteers.

Does working on a public holiday attract premium payments?
There is no automatic right to enhanced pay if you work on a public/bank holiday. The pay rate for working these days depends on your contract of employment and any Union/Company agreements. The pay rates for working on a public/bank holiday are usually explained in the staff handbook or in other communications to staff. Further information can usually be found in your staff handbook.

Am I entitled to a paid day off on a public holiday?
There is no automatic legal right to paid time off on a public holiday. Your position in relation to working/time off on a public holiday will depend on your terms and conditions of employment.

Christmas Day and New Year’s Day fall on the weekend this year, what days are the bank holidays?
This will depend on the arrangements at your employer. Some employers will move the bank holiday to a weekday where it falls on the weekend. However, as retail is a 7 day a week operation, many retailers choose to keep the bank holiday on the weekend. 
Are Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve normal working days?
These are not public holidays so they are normal working days. Normal Sunday rules will apply if they fall on Sundays.
Every Christmas and New Year the business puts pressure on staff to work extra hours, often at short notice. Do I have to do it?
Unless your contract states otherwise, working overtime is voluntary and should be agreed mutually between you and your manager.

My store is very cold over Christmas. What can I do?
We receive many queries about cold workplaces in the winter months. Our guide to working in cold weather contains useful advice on what you and your employer can do.

Over Christmas customers get very stressed and take their frustrations out on us. Is there anything we can do to prevent this?
Usdaw runs the Freedom From Fear campaign every year. As part of this campaign, the Union holds a Respect for Shopworkers Week in November to promote the message that ‘abuse is not part of the job.’ We would advise anyone who experiences threats, violence or abuse to report it. Only by reporting it will we be able to tackle the problem.

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Updated: September 2022

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