My partner works in a UK clothing store whose policy is to deny ALL holidays during December and January. This means for as long as she is in this job, we can never take a Christmas/New Year holiday.

Not knowing if this is a strict policy or not, how can best ask for time off during this "forbidden" period?

  • 4
    We can't answer legal questions here. You will need to consult with a lawyer (or contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau).
    – Oded
    Dec 25, 2012 at 17:52
  • Fairness is a judgement call (subjective) and, as Oded noted, legal questions are problematic. However, if you were to rephrase this to ask how your partner can get time off anyway, that could be a good question for this site. Dec 25, 2012 at 18:57
  • 1
    I've added to the edits as well; let's see how this question fares. It might still fall into the "questions we can't answer" category, but that's for the community to decide.
    – jcmeloni
    Dec 25, 2012 at 21:49
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    I'd say "May I take these days off?" and see what the reply is. If their policy is strict, then it's time to consider a new career, IMHO.
    – DA.
    Dec 26, 2012 at 0:29
  • You put forbidden in quotes as though it were euphemistic. It is a store policy, and to my knowledge, very common in retail work. Mar 1, 2015 at 18:42

5 Answers 5


As it seems like these particular days are very important for the business, it might well be part of the job to cope with working Christmas. Just asking unofficial to see what possibilities there are is one way to start.

It's always possible to try to negotiate. If she has this time off (that she is expected to work), what can she give up in return that is equally valuable to the company? Summer vacation? Extra weekend work? Or something else extra that is makes up for the time off.

The main problem for the management to make exceptions from such a policy is that everyone might start to ask for exceptions and then it's easier to say no to everyone.

Working as a contractor is another option, where it might be easier to set the rules than for a regular employee. If it's possible in this particular case, is another question.

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    "The main problem for the management to make exceptions from such a policy is that everyone might start to ask for exceptions and then it's easier to say no to everyone." Yes, indeed.
    – ChrisF
    Dec 26, 2012 at 12:07
  • @ChrisF - where I work (New Zealand) there are legal implications if one employee is given favourable treatment relative to others.
    – GuyM
    Dec 26, 2012 at 20:25

If your partner is very good at their job, and is in a field where being very good is important, you could try the technique used by Bill Mason to get the entire summer off (so he could canoe) every year, while holding jobs (graphic design I think) that typically gave two weeks a year, maybe 3 of vacation:

quit your job (with as much notice as you want to) at the start of the time you want off. When you return from it, apply to various places including your old employer.

The risk is that no-one will hire you afterwards. That's why you need to be good, and being good needs to matter. This is perhaps too extreme a thing to get two or three days off, but if you'd like several weeks to go away somewhere for the holidays, it might work.

I can see your employer's point in not allowing time beyond the statutory days, if your partner is in a field where it's busier at that time, and competition for the time off could cause tensions among the staff. Perhaps asking for a "leave of absence" would also be a strategy.

  • 1
    Reminds me of the mini-retirement.
    – jmort253
    Dec 26, 2012 at 5:06
  • @KateGregory. Unfortunately she is replaceable, as is everyone else in her job. She is very good at it, but it's just one of those jobs that anybody can do - and the employers know that. Dec 26, 2012 at 9:16
  • @flem - then she can probably find somewhere else to do it as well. Dec 26, 2012 at 14:28
  • @flem just about everyone is replaceable -- the question is how much pain will the company have to go through to replace her. There is risk, cost, and lost time in the attempt to hire a new employee to replace a proven one. Sometimes people have more bargaining power than they realize.
    – mcknz
    Dec 26, 2012 at 16:58
  • @Chad. In the UK there are around 2.5 million unemployed (7.8% of the population), higher in our region (close to 10%). This makes it incredibly risky to leave an unskilled job. Dec 27, 2012 at 22:13

It's important to be able to negotiate in these situations. Is there another employee at a similar level who could cover for each other on different holidays? Both may need to plead the case to the employer that one can handle it.

A second step may be to ask for part of the day off or a shift in hours. This would prevent a lot of traveling, but at lease she could be there at a crucial time of a holiday.

At least in the US, the retail industry is notorious for hiring temporary employees to cover the additional hours since many make up to 85% of their sales during this time of year. Similar to trying to get the night off in the restaurant industry.


Keeping the context in mind, as to why, for some industries like retail, holiday period is "forbidden" for leave.

Assuming that your wife knew it before she joined this industry.

Assuming that she has strong reasons to ask for leave given the precedent it would set and impact it would have on her co-workers,working over the holiday period.

I would very nicely put those reasons forward along with a proposal to make up for the lost effort down the line, if required.

  • knew it before she joined this industry. - I do not think it is a given that you will never be able to get time off in Dec-Jan in any industry. This sounds like an employer policy rather than an industry norm. Dec 26, 2012 at 14:27
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    Only speaking from a US perspective, but here it's fairly common knowledge that the retail industry is not exactly an industry rich in employee benefits or even care.
    – DA.
    Dec 26, 2012 at 16:40
  • @Chad : I live in NewZealand and employment laws/norms are fairly supportive of holiday over the christmas break and if some employers are not (e.g. retail) they are upfront about it. Dec 26, 2012 at 20:01
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    @the_reluctant_tester In NZ things are a little different as Dec/Jan is the main school holiday period, although there will be professionals (tourism) where similar bans will be in place. There can also be issues if one employee is allowed special conditions that others are not - we have been strongly advised to treat all employees in the same way as it can open you up to a personal grievance case, which is localised to NZ law.
    – GuyM
    Dec 26, 2012 at 20:24
  • I am a retail manager and I can tell you that's this policy is strictly enforced. December/January is considered part of the busy season for retail; she will not get those days off. I know I have personally denied all request offs for those dates. On the flip side management will also be forced to work all those days and with extended hours. Retail is not a fun industry to work in if you want holidays off.
  • The question is about how best to ask for time off, not what your personal policy is. Mar 1, 2015 at 16:06

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