As holiday schedules come out and employees work to reconcile them with their own holiday plans, one of the first questions that comes to mind is: Do I really have to work on Christmas day? If you live in the United States, the short answer is probably. However, there are a few considerations worth looking into if your employer has scheduled you to work on Christmas, or if you’re uncertain about time tracking policies and pay for the day.
Rules are different for government and non-government jobs
Policy about holidays and holiday pay differ depending on whether you work for the government or a private company, and whether or not you’re covered by a union contract. The federal government grants ten paid holidays each year, and Christmas day (but not Christmas Eve) is one of them. Many private companies follow this holiday schedule, but there is no law that requires them to do so. In other words, a private employer doesn’t have to grant any paid holidays or holidays off, and can require employees work any day of the year so long as it’s within contract terms. The exception is if you are covered by a union contract which stipulates holidays off.
Check your contract terms
Before raising the issue with management, check your contract for language about time tracking for paid time off and holidays. If you’ve been schedule to work Christmas day, a provision for such work is likely included in your employment contract. However, it’s always possible that scheduling work on Christmas is a management oversight, and so it’s worth checking into it. If language about holidays is not in your contract, or if you have an implied or verbal contract of employment, you will need to follow the company’s time schedule.
Another important point to check is whether the company has limitations on which days employees can take off. Some employers reserve the right to disallow leave during busy periods such as the holidays, and Christmas day in particular. This may or may not mean you will be scheduled to work that day, but your contract terms may prevent you from taking either paid or unpaid time off on a particular day such as Christmas.
Ask about holiday overtime pay
Holiday pay is another issue that may or may not be included in an employment contract, and comes with its own nuances. Some companies offer a special rate for holiday pay, while others treat it is as overtime or as a normal work day with no extra pay. Just as private companies are not required by law to grant holiday time off, they are also not required to offer special holiday pay. The exception is if working the holiday puts you into actual overtime, or if you are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that mandates additional holiday pay.
Know if the holiday is paid or unpaid
Private employers have a few options when it comes to granting paid or unpaid time off on a holiday. Even if an employer gives its employees Christmas day off, now law requires private companies to make it a paid day. Of course, if you are a salaried employee the company cannot dock pay for the day, but it is not obliged to pay non-salaried employees for time not worked.
Another legal (although often unpopular) option for companies is to force employees to use paid vacation time on Christmas. This means that if you have a set number of paid vacation days off, your employer may require that you use one on Christmas day.
All in all, if you don’t work for the federal government or if your employer does not specifically grant Christmas day off, it’s very likely you will have to work that day if scheduled. Still, it’s worth looking into the topics discussed above. If after doing the research you still feel something unfair in the arrangement, approach management to have an informed discussion about their policies on holiday time off.