Can Employers Insist Their Staff Work Overtime In The Christmas Period?

The yuletide season is filled with joy, but can also be one of the busiest times of the year for businesses. In fact, 20-40% of yearly sales from small businesses are made in the last two months of the year.

But when you're faced with that big consumer rush, can you insist that your employees work overtime to meet demand?

Well, that depends on your contract of employment. If your contract states that employees will be expected to overtime when needed, then you can request they do so, so long as it is reasonable (i.e if you have given enough notice and the hours are not excessive). In fact, tribunal cases such as Edwards V. Bramble Foods Ltd have found in the favour of the employer when their employee claimed they were unfairly dismissed for refusing to work overtime during the festive season. Whether or not this overtime is paid is also dependant on your contract of employment and business practices, however if you decide not to pay, you should ensure that you are meeting National Minimum Wage.

Though you may have the contractual ability to enforce overtime, there are other factors you should consider before doing so. Ensure you are keeping an accurate track of working hours, if your employee hasn't opted out of the standard working week, you may break working time regulations if you insist they work more than 48 hours a week.

You may also want to consider the implications of insisting on overtime as if the employee has a genuine reason for refusing to work past their contracted hours, such as being responsible for the care of a dependant, you may decrease employee engagement at a critical time of the year.

Overall, it's about striking the right balance between meeting demand and considering the needs of your staff. Many businesses find it helpful to hire Christmas employees on a temporary contract. This type of employment is particularly popular with school leavers and students. Increasing staffing numbers temporarily in the festive season can significantly reduce the strain on your permanent staff and also avoid the need to insist of overtime.


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