Should I pay staff extra for working on Christmas?

James Potts - Legal Services Director

November 19 2021

Not every business can shut down over the Christmas break.

And while you don’t want to be a Scrooge, you might struggle to reward staff with extra pay. Especially after what’s been an incredibly tough couple of years…

If you’re debating whether you should pay staff more over the festive period, we’ve covered everything you should know.

So do I need to provide paid leave on Christmas?

In short, no.

While staff may feel owed time off on a bank holiday like Christmas, it’s not a legal requirement. You’re also not obliged to pay staff extra on any bank holiday – whether it’s Christmas or not.  

As long as you provide 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday through the year, you can ask staff to work on a bank holiday for their usual pay.

But while you can do that, it’s worth weighing up whether you should

Consider your employee contracts

First, check your staff contracts.

You might have already included extra pay – like time and a half, double, or even triple time over Christmas – as a contractual benefit. If that’s the case, you can’t remove this benefit.

However, it all depends on how you phrased your contract. For example, you might offer extra pay ‘subject to circumstances’ or reserve the right to amend or withdraw the benefit.  

In which case, you can withdraw the extra pay if you need to – though you should consider the impact this would have on staff morale.

If you didn’t include that flexibility, you may need to amend your staff contracts. To do this, you’ll need full written consent from your employees.

Remember to include a strong business reason behind why you’re requesting to do this. This helps staff understand your position and accept any changes.

Encourage staff to accept festive shifts

Understandably, staff will want to spend the festive period with their loved ones. So if you plan shifts with a rota, there could be conflict over who works the crucial Christmas shift…

And even if you adopt a fair ‘first-come first-served’ approach to booking festive leave, you could still face issues with staffing. For example, a convenient bout of flu could suddenly hit your workers on Christmas morning…

So, offering higher pay can encourage staff to work a Christmas shift with much more gusto. In fact, this might even mean staff come to you and offer to take the festive shifts – which saves you from pleading with your team.

If you can afford it, it’s worth it

If you can afford to offer extra pay this Christmas, it’s well worth considering.

Not only will it encourage staff to accept the shift in the first place, but it will improve morale on the day. And that means staff give your clients or customers a more positive experience.

Plus, if staff need to work over Christmas without extra pay, they might feel resentful. Which means you could see a raft of resignations in the new year… So offering an attractive rate can help you hold onto your hardworking team.

Ultimately, it means staff feel rewarded. This means they’re more likely to give you their best, both on the day and in the future.  

But if you can’t offer double time this year…

While you might want to reward your hardworking staff, offering more money could be out of the question this year.

If that’s the case, make sure your staff feel rewarded in other ways. This could include offering an extra few days’ leave in the new year, during a quieter period. Remember, this needs to be in addition to the minimum 5.6 weeks’ holiday.

Plus, you could shorten the length of festive shifts to allow staff to spend more time with their family. You could do this by:

  • Staggering shorter shifts across Christmas and Boxing Day – spreading the workload between more staff for as little as an hour or so per person.
  • Tweaking your opening hours to shorten the working day.
  • Allowing staff to finish as early as possible.

Treat your staff with fairness this Christmas

Remember, no one has automatic priority to book Christmas Day off.

You might think you should prioritise staff with kids. Or you might think those who don’t celebrate Christmas wouldn’t want the extra time off.

However, you should avoid making any assumptions – particularly ones which involve beliefs, sex, age, or marital status, as this could lead to discrimination claims.  

Instead, make sure all staff have the option to book time off and reward holiday to those who book first.

Alternatively, you could do the opposite and ask all staff to do their bit – but spread the workload over mini staggered shifts. This means, while everyone will need to do a fraction of work over Christmas, they can all still enjoy most of the day with their loved ones.

Got a question about festive shifts? Whether you need advice on pay or boosting morale, our HR advisers are here to help.

Get in touch on 0800 028 2420 or discover unlimited HR support today. 

Suggested Resources