Career Clinic

Q: I want to take two weeks off at Christmas but, although my boss initially said it would be fine, we have now been told that everyone’s leave will be limited. What are my rights? Aren’t my holidays mine to use as I see fit? And shouldn’t I be able to take them given that my boss had already verbally given me the green light?

A. The short answer is no. The terms and conditions of your employment are that you are entitled to an amount of paid annual leave per year. When you take that leave is down to you to negotiate with your manager. Most teams have a good system of applying for planned days off and getting line managers’ signatures on relevant forms prior to submitting requests to personnel or payroll departments.

A verbal ‘green light’ just doesn’t hit the spot. A formal application of the dates you are planning for, and prior written agreement, is what is needed. You can’t just take paid days off at will.

My guess is that you want to spend two weeks over Christmas and New Year with your family and friends. My other guess is that all of your colleagues want to do the same. A third comment – and this is not a guess – is that the people you are caring for really want some staff around to make the festive season a bit more bearable for them. Why don’t you try to negotiate a rota, so you do get some time off to enjoy at home when your colleagues are working, and vice versa?

Alison Sanger is an HR social care consultant

A: How familiar is this tale!! Not only are we expected to work for a pittance, but we are also expected to do so at the expense of our own families’ happiness. Of course I want to do my best by the service users I care for. But I also want to do my best by my own children, husband, parents and in-laws – and if that means having Christmas Eve off so I can wrap some presents and Christmas Day off so I can cook a family meal, then surely that is not too much to ask.

Name and address withheld

A: My advice is to learn from your experience and formerly book off next Christmas in writing the minute next year’s holiday forms are printed! I know that won’t help you right now, but at least it should mean you can promise your family that you won’t be abandoning them two years in a row.

If your office operates a rota-based system every year for the Christmas period, assess how bad the shifts you end up with this year are and then use them as bargaining chips for next year to make sure you get a fair deal for Christmas 2008!

In the meantime, you need t try and make the best of a bad deal by remembering that (a) you are a saint for working over Christmas helping others so have the right to reward yourself with whatever you want at the end of each shift, and (b) working over Christmas can be improved by making the office as festive as possible and by bringing in lots of nice food. You could also try informally swapping some of your shifts this year with a colleague who has been roped into working – you may have slightly different priorities and be able to help each other out.

Name and address withheld

13 December Question:

We will answer this question in the 13 December issue of Community Care. Please email your responses by 3 December to

Do you have your own career dilemma? Send your comments or questions for consideration by our HR expert and your peers to

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.