What annual leave are Irish workers entitled to over Christmas? – advice by Alan Price, CEO and HR expert at BrightHR

As the festive season approaches, workers across Ireland will be looking forward to spending some quality time at home with their friends and family. While most staff will be entitled to enjoy some time off over Christmas, this will differ depending on their employer’s approach and their contractual terms.


Three public holidays span the festive period; Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day and New Year’s Day. Workers often believe that they have the statutory right to paid time off work on these days. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Instead, this will depend on their contract of employment. Full –time employees can be required to work public holidays, provided they receive a paid day off within a month of the public holiday or an additional day of annual leave or an additional day’s pay. The statutory minimum of four weeks’ paid annual leave must be provided in addition to employees’ public holiday entitlements.


Workers that are originally scheduled to work over Christmas may request this time off as annual leave. Again, employers are free to set their own rules on holidays over the festive period, and those who operate in industries such as retail and hospitality may implement a blanket ban, preventing staff from taking holidays during this time to cope with increased customer demand. Employers need to reconcile their operational requirements with their employees’ entitlement to take care of their family responsibilities and to enjoy some rest and recreation. For businesses that are open over Christmas, it is advisable to rotate employees to make sure that all employees enjoy a reasonable amount of time off over Christmas.


Alternatively, employers can choose to let staff book annual leave as usual over the festive season, and it would be reasonable to require individuals to follow the standard procedure for requesting annual leave.


Some employers may opt to relax rules on how many staff can be off at the same time over Christmas, especially if the business is expected to be slow. Companies that shut down temporarily in between Christmas and New Year can opt to enforce mandatory annual leave to cover this period. For this to work, employers must provide staff with sufficient notice. Organisations can do this by distributing an email on this matter or including this information within contracts of employment.


Workers that are curious about their entitlement to leave during the Christmas period are encouraged to review their contracts and any relevant workplace policies. While employers do have the flexibility to set their own rules on holidays during this time, they should think carefully about which approach would best support their specific business operations.

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