The 12 Employment Law Questions of Christmas: Day 11

On the 11th day of Christmas, HR heard management say…“if they all work at Christmas, how much must we pay”?

A weary HR team replied - whatever the contract says!

Once again employers should initially turn to the contract of employment for the answer, which will vary from employer to employer and could include any of the following:

You will receive normal salary for any time worked on a public holiday but will be rewarded with an equivalent day off in lieu to be taken at a date convenient to the employer and employee.

  • You will receive [1.5] times your normal hourly rate for all time worked on a public holiday.
  • You will receive overtime payment at the published rates (see overtime policy).
  • If any of these are included in the contract, then employees who work at Christmas should be paid or given time off in lieu in accordance with that contractual term.

That’s all very well you might say but what if the contract does not make any mention of public holiday pay or (shock horror) there is no contract at all?  The answer in both cases is that the employee will be entitled to receive their normal salary – particularly in circumstances where the business operates 365 days a year with public holidays treated as any other business day. 

There is (contrary to popular myth) no statutory entitlement to receive any additional pay for working on a public holiday.   Of course, it might not be that simple and an employer could receive calls from staff who are suddenly unwell if they do not consider that the basic salary is sufficient reward to miss Christmas with family and friends.  Employers should also be mindful of cases where they have always paid more for working on bank holidays, such that the right to additional pay is expected and has become contractual through custom and practice.

Where there is no such expectation and a set level of cover is required on a bank holiday then employers should consider whether a discretionary payment could be applied as an incentive to colleagues who work over the festive period.  If taking such a step, employers should be careful to avoid setting any precedent or custom and practice arguments for the future, by ensuring that the exercise of its discretion is highlighted and it is made clear that just because additional pay is to be received for this public holiday, it does not mean that the same will apply on subsequent occasions.


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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