Advice column: just because I'm unattached, why should I have to work over Christmas?

Dear Ash

Our company normally expects some form of cover to be provided over the holiday season, and although the senior partners are not expected to be available as normal, there is no clear-cut policy with regard to the remaining staff. Unfortunately, however, I usually end up covering for everyone in my department, as there is an expectation that because I am single and don’t have any children, I will be more available than other members of staff with family commitments. I feel this is unfair as I would also like to take time out in order to catch up with friends and extended family, but I have noted that many of the others have already booked their leave for this period. I don’t want to come across as the moaning Grinch, but I do want to take time out too!

Ash replies:

The holiday period over Christmas and New Year can be a good time for many to recharge the batteries and spend time with loved ones, but in some firms there is clearly some form of scramble akin to the Black Friday events for grabbing the much sought after annual leave ticket.

It is unfortunate that you are essentially being selected for such cover due to your personal circumstances. Your personal status should not dictate whether you are given priority for taking time off, and indeed if you are always expected to cover for colleagues in this way, you are unlikely to have much time to socialise with a view to updating your single status, if you choose to do so!

Moreover, with the advent of technology allowing for remote working, I would have thought that employers would at least be prepared to allow certain employees to provide cover remotely. There may be a need to keep the office open on certain days during the festive period, but you could always agree to come in for a couple of hours and then remain available remotely for the remainder of the day?

I suggest that you mention to your boss that you are looking to take time off and that it is important for you to do so. You may, depending on your schedule, be willing to work one or two days during the period but you should not feel compelled to do so.

You should not feel bad about requesting time out, and indeed by not speaking up for yourself you may actually end up being green with envy and frustrated... just like the moaning Grinch!

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor: peter@connectcommunications.co.uk, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s Department. For one-to-one advice, contact Katie Wood, manager in the Registrar’s Department, on 0131 476 8105/8200, or KatieWood@lawscot.org.uk 

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