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Christmas and New Year overtime rights: Your rights to extra pay or time back if you work the festive period


WHEN it comes to the festive period, not everyone will automatically get Christmas day or New Year’s day off.

Even though both days fall on a Saturday this year, whether or not you’ll have to work is dependent on the terms of your contract.

Not everyone automatically gets time off work over the Christmas period

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Not everyone automatically gets time off work over the Christmas periodCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Because both days fall on a weekend, we also have several substitute bank holidays this festive period, which fall on December 27, 28 and January 3.

Once again, whether you have to work these days will depend on your contract and how your holiday leave entitlement is worded.

The good news is, some employers choose to offer extra pay such as double time, so working the Christmas period can be a nice little earner.

Unfortunately, businesses don’t have to, so some people may be asked to work without any extra compensation.

If your employer asks you to come in – here’s everything you need to know about whether you have to work, whether you’ll get extra pay and whether you’re entitled to time off in lieu.

Do I have to work on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day?

Usually, the rules around working on the most important days of the festive period depend on how your office treats Bank Holidays.

But this year, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day all fall on Saturdays and Sundays.

This means whether you have to go in or not will depend on whether you typically work weekends.

If you’re employed in a job that runs Monday-Friday, your weekends will be free meaning you’ll automatically get the days off.

But if you often work weekends or do shift work that can include Saturdays or Sundays, you could be asked to work as normal.

That said, many workplaces shut between Christmas and New Year, so you might be ok, depending on your sector and employer.

If you work in an industry that’s open over Christmas, such as hospitality, and your contract includes weekend work, you might have to book Christmas day, Boxing day or New Year’s day as annual leave if you want to spend them as family.

Do I have to work on bank holidays over the festive period?

There’s plenty of Bank Holidays to think about this year too. Because the traditional festive days off fall on the weekend, we have several “substitute bank holidays” to make up the difference.

That means that this year, December 28, 29 and January 3 are all bank holiday days.

Whether you can be asked to work on a bank holiday, depends on the wording of your contract.

Everyone is legally entitled to a certain amount of holiday each year.

If you work five days a week, you’re legally entitled to 5.6 weeks of holiday, which works out at 28 days’ paid annual leave.

If you work part-time, you are still entitled to 5.6 weeks, but this will be calculated pro-rata. For instance, someone who works three days a week will get at least 16.8 days.

Employers can offer more than the statutory requirement, but they don’t have to.

Whether you have to work on the substitute bank holidays over the Christmas period depends on how this holiday is described in your contract.

Sometimes your workplace will say you have a certain number of days annual leave “exclusive of” bank holidays.

For instance, your contract could allow you to take 20 days of paid holiday each year as well as the eight bank holidays.

If your holiday is allocated like this, then you can’t be made to work on a bank holiday.

In fact, some offices choose to shut between Christmas and New Year and you won’t be able to work in the holiday period at all – even if you want to.

The second type of contract will describe your holiday entitlement as “inclusive of” bank holidays.

So, instead of being given 20 days off plus the public holidays, you could be given 28 days to take as you choose.

In this case, you won’t automatically get any bank holidays over Christmas, New Year or Easter as holiday – you’ll have to book days off if you want them.

Depending on the type of work you do, you may not be able to take those days off at all.

You could also find that it’s first come, first serve, and only a proportion of your team can be on holiday.

Will I get time off in lieu if I work on Christmas and New Years Eve?

If your holiday entitlement is exclusive of bank holidays, then you can’t be made to work them.

Of course, your employer might want you to work and they can ask you to do so, but you don’t have to.

If you do agree to go in, then you should be given a day in lieu for the holiday you missed out on.

If your holiday entitlement is inclusive of bank holidays then you don’t have to be given time off in lieu for the days you work.

In this case, holidays are just normal workdays and you can ask to book them off if you want, but you don’t get extra holiday if you decide not to.

Will I get double- or triple-time if I work over Christmas?

Many of us remember a time when working near Christmas could mean lucrative double or even triple pay deals.

Unfortunately, these are vanishingly rare, and employers do not legally have to offer you any extra money to work over the festive period.

That said, some businesses still choose to reward staff coming in over Christmas, so you could strike lucky and pocket some extra cash.

If you’re asked to work, dig out your employment contract and search for “holiday” or “Christmas” just to double-check the company policy.

Some generous employers offer as much as triple pay, so it’s well worth making sure you know what you’re entitled to.

Acas senior adviser Tom Neil said: “Due to covid restrictions being relaxed over the Christmas period, many staff may wish to book leave.

“However, many businesses may still be open over this period and bosses won’t be able to allow everyone time off at the same time.

“We would advise people to get any requests in early and employers will need to consider each request fairly.”

Will I get extra pay if I work overtime during the holiday period?

If you work more than your usual contracted hours, that’s typically considered to be overtime.

For instance, if you usually work 35 hours a week but find that you’re working 40, you’ll have worked five extra hours in overtime.

The bad news is employers don’t automatically have to pay you to work longer, particularly if you haven’t agreed on it in advance.

The flipside of this is that your boss can’t force you to work more than your contracted hours, but sometimes wording can be vague.

Check your contract carefully to see whether there are any circumstances in which overtime is paid, and get sign off from a senior manager before you take on the extra hours.

If you feel you’re being forced to work lots of unpaid overtime, contact ACAS for some advice.

Generally, you can’t be made to work more than 48 hours a week in total.

One exception where you should automatically be paid more is if the extra hours push your earnings below the national minimum wage.

Here’s your employer will have to make up the difference.

Some businesses also offer voluntary paid overtime, which means you can sign up for extra work in return for extra pay.

Check the terms carefully to make sure that added hours are worth your while.

Your rights if you’re working over the festive period

Workplace and employment advisers ACAS explain your rights if you work over Christmas

  • Your employer must pay you at least the minimum wage,
  • There is no entitlement to extra pay such as time and a half or overtime pay, though many workplaces do offer this, so check your contract or speak to a manager
  • Your employer does not have to give you time off on a bank holiday or at Christmas if they’re not included in your holiday entitlement – this is the same whether you work full time or part time
  • Your employer can also make you take your holiday on bank holidays or at Christmas, if for example, the business is shut on these days
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