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Christmas Leave: A Guide

Christmas Leave

A Guide

Are you off Christmas day? Maybe even boxing day, too?

Well, you may wish to give a thankful thought to Charles Dickens! Did you know that it was his story ‘A Christmas carol’ which reignited Christmas spirit back into England, bringing along some of our well-loved Christmas traditions, first introduced by Pagans of Europe and early Christianity?

In fact, if you get paid over the Christmas holidays, you have Bob Cratchit to thank; Dickens made it clear that if you refused to pay your employees adequately and give them time off for the holidays, then you will be haunted by ghosts and eventually die hated and alone.

Drastic as this may seem, the Victorians loved a ghost story and this ghoulish thought terrified rich people so much that getting time off developed gradually from being an “unrealistic” pipe dream to a reasonable request.


Of course, it would be lovely if we could sprinkle some Dickensian Christmas magic and give everyone time off from the day before Christmas Eve and not return until the New Year but the reality is that many businesses need to keep the wheels turning over the holiday period; if you work in the hospitality or retail sector, it may be their busiest time of the year or if you work in the care sector, every day is a working day.

So, how can you manage leave requests so that everyone is happy while also ensuring the needs of the business are met?


If you are finishing early Christmas Eve, closing down completely over Christmas or if its business as usual, it is important to ensure that those rules are clearly notified to all staff well in advance and are applied fairly and equally to all within the workforce.


Keep information about outstanding leave entitlements up-to-date, it’s much easier to ensure that proper plans are in place. If you have minimum staffing levels or specific colleagues who can’t be off at the same time, make sure everyone is aware of that. Use team meetings to remind people of the process for booking annual leave encourage them not to leave their remaining holiday entitlement to the last minute.

It is especially advisable for Christmas to consider well in advance what cover is required within each role for the proper running of the organisation. Requests for time off over Christmas can then be authorised until this threshold is reached, with further requests refused. The fairest method of dealing with requests is usually on a “first come first served” basis.


It’s never a nice job but if you have to turn a holiday request down, make sure you can explain your reasoning clearly. Most people will understand that not everyone can take time off simultaneously and that someone has to work. Be open to suggestions of solutions they might have; even if you have to say no in the end, they will appreciate the fact you have tried to help.


Generally, within employment contracts in these sectors, entitlement to leave would just be expressed as “28 days per annum.” As such, the same rule can be applied to the bank holiday as any other working day – that it would need to be requested.

Be weary of adopting a “first come first served” system. This can lead to requests for time off being made earlier and earlier and can leave employees feeling as though they have missed out, especially if they have worked the previous year. Additionally, with staff movement and turnover you could be faced with a shortage of staff scheduled to work when the time comes. Maybe a deadline could be given for submitting leave requests – Priority could be given to those who worked the previous year – and staff will be notified who has had the time off granted. If there are too many requests then a draw from a hat is an unbiased solution.


Don’t leave staff to fight it out between themselves over holiday clashes. If disputes do arise, make sure you are dealing with them fairly and treating all employees the same. Refer employees back to your company policy or point them at websites like ACAS or Citizens Advice that explain the rules. It’s very easy for resentment to creep in if people feel you are showing favouritism to a particular employee or if they perceive that colleagues with children are being given priority over others. This will only lead to tension and bad feeling in the team – and as the manager, you need to make the final decision.