Closing offices over Christmas?

20th December 2022

Closing offices over Christmas?

Lots of employers traditionally close over the Christmas period, often to give employees time off whilst workload reduces. This year however, there have been many more reports of businesses closing over Christmas to save energy costs. One such employer being PwC announcing that it will be closing most of its offices to employees over the Christmas period for this very reason. Given that there appears to be a greater focus on holiday closures, we consider some of the associated issues below.

  1. Can you make employees take holiday?

In the unlikely event that an employee wants to attend work during the Christmas shutdown then yes! An employer may give notice ordering an employee to take holiday on specified dates, such as during a Christmas shutdown. Such notice must be given at least twice as many days in advance of the start of the holiday as the number of days holiday that the employee is required to take. So for example, if you want the employee to take 3 days holiday, then you would need to give 6 days’ notice. There are no requirements about the form that this notice must take.

  1. What if they don’t have enough allowance left?

You cannot make an employee take holidays that they have not accrued. Therefore if you have an employee with insufficient holiday, and you do not want them to attend work during the Christmas shutdown, then you would still need to pay them. Essentially you would be giving them additional holidays. This is why it is common practice for employers who regularly have a Christmas shutdown, to include wording in the employees’ contract of employment that requires them to retain sufficient holiday allowance for the Christmas shutdown.

  1. What about those employees on maternity or paternity leave?

Employees may lose out on contractual paid leave as a result of a compulsory shutdown during maternity or paternity leave, however not statutory annual leave. So if an employee gets more than the statutory holiday entitlement, and this allowance is used during the Christmas shutdown, then they may lose out.

  1. Is forcing employees to take holiday at Christmas discriminatory?

Discrimination in the workplace by reason of religion or belief is of course unlawful. Employers should be aware of potential religion or belief discrimination issues if an employee requests annual leave to observe a religious holiday, and permission is refused. In these circumstances the employer must be able to justify its decision, and the reasons be unrelated to the employee’s religion or belief.

This works the other way. Requiring non-Christian employees to take annual leave at Christmas and refusing to grant employees of another faith time off to celebrate their religious holidays could amount to indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, unless the employer can show that its refusal was objectively justified (i.e. it was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim).

Get in touch with an Employment advisor today

Please contact Employment law solicitor James Howarth on 0161 838 8131 or email for more advice on Christmas closures.

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