Christmas Day may be both a religious festival and a secular public holiday in Britain, but many people have to, or choose to, work on the day, according to newly-released data from the Government’s Labour Force Survey, which interviews a very large sample of adults aged 16 and over resident at private addresses throughout the country.
The relevant press release does not yet seem to be available online on Office for National Statistics (ONS) or other Government websites, but, according to reports in the Boxing Day broadsheets, the data show that 881,000 Britons worked on Christmas Day in 2008, equivalent to about 3.5% of the workforce. This total was up by 19% from 741,000 in 2004 and slightly above the 872,000 in 2006.
Care assistants made up the largest number working a Christmas Day shift that year (160,000), followed by nurses (88,000), nursing auxiliaries (42,000), chefs and cooks (28,000), security guards (27,000), and police officers (25,000).
However, the occupation with the highest proportion of people working was the clergy, 57% of whom said that they worked on 25 December 2008. Some might be surprised that the figure was not even higher (as, indeed, was the ONS spokesperson, Nick Palmer), given the centrality of Christmas Day to the job, but allowance presumably has to be made for retired or sick clergy and those of non-Christian faiths.
The next highest proportions working on Christmas Day were paramedics (38%), farm managers (34%), midwives (31%), farm workers (28%), managers of licensed premises (26%), and hotel managers (24%).
Regionally, Scots were the most likely to be working on Christmas Day 2008 and residents of Northern Ireland the least (followed by London). Public sector employees were also more likely to work than their counterparts in the private sector, and women more than men.
These figures are probably confined to those who claimed that they actually attended their normal place of work on Christmas Day. They presumably exclude those who did some work from home (for example, logging on to their email or office files) and those who worked on other days during what has increasingly become a fortnight’s festive break for many employees.
Some feel for the size of this broader Christmas working community is given in a survey released by Post Office Travel Services on 27 December, based upon online interviews with 2,000 Britons. The relevant press release is, yet again, unavailable online at present, but reports in various media indicate that one in four will go to work at some stage over the festive period this year, with a further one in six working from home.