Can an employer require staff to take holiday over a Christmas shutdown period?

  • Author: Yasmin Govan
  • Posted on: 21st November 2018
  • Posted in: Blog

Question: Can an employer require staff to take holiday over a Christmas shutdown period?

The simple answer is, yes.

Requiring employees to take holidays on specified dates is not unlawful from a Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR 1998) perspective. As long as the employer gives the required notice of at least twice the length of the period of leave that the worker is being told to take.

The most sensible way to do this is to include an express provision within the employment contract under the holiday entitlement clause. Alternatively, the employer could state that there will be a Christmas shutdown each year and that the dates will be provided in advance.

What to watch out for:

There is a risk of indirect religious discrimination if non-Christian employees are being made to use their annual leave during the Christmas period, which has no religious significance to them.

The employer would need to consider whether it can be justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. For example, it may be possible to justify requiring employees to take holiday during the office closure on grounds of reduced customer need or agree different working arrangements to enable non-Christian workers to take sufficient time off during their religious festivals.

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