By Ellie Kruglikov
We’ve once again reached that time of the year when businesses proudly boast “We’re open Holidays!”, but is it really something to celebrate?
There’s no question of the motive for businesses to be open holidays: more days open means more money in the bank. Anybody who has made a last minute food run on Thanksgiving can understand the convenience. It is these situations that make it financially worthwhile for businesses to stay open on holidays.
However, when I see retail employees working around the clock on Christmas, my response is more sympathetic than grateful.
Frequently, it seems that people don’t treat retail workers as fellow human beings—they blame them for problems outside of their control, take not a moment’s hesitation before throwing around insults and have no issue taking out their anger on the friendly face who- for the sake of their job- just has to take it.
This lack of empathy seems to hold an unfortunate place in the general public’s response to businesses being open on Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving–all the days that we enjoy the open businesses but would dread working ourselves. People may extend their sympathies with a “That sucks that you’re working today”, but any concern for the employees ends there.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually not required for employees to be paid overtime on the holidays. This is what I had to tell those people who stopped by on Halloween to joke that “Hey, at least you’re getting paid extra.” So those poor souls you see at checkout early morning on Christmas or Thanksgiving are not even necessarily being paid extra for their work. It’s just being treated as another workday.
I am definitely close to the situation, maybe too close to have an unbiased opinion. But then again, I don’t celebrate Christian holidays. I can work Christmas Eve and have no intervention with my normal affairs, but seeing other employees who I know are missing their family’s celebrations is still a tough thing to see. It doesn’t seem fair to make these people lose their holidays for the sake of our convenience, and I think that’s something anybody can understand.
But as I said, it’s not a problem for somebody like me, who doesn’t celebrate Christian holidays. So maybe the solution to this issue is to let the staff choose. It should definitely not be a requirement to work holidays if you have a retail position, but if the staff is willing, I see no issue keeping a business open. While this would definitely be more difficult with chains who have national standards that are difficult to change, independently-owned businesses, who have the freedom to alter their hours, should definitely consider sending out a poll asking who would be willing to work holidays. If not enough are willing, you can simply close for the day and allow yourself and your employees to enjoy the day as they please.
As for the business chains, the very least they could do is pay their employees overtime for working the less desirable hours. After all, it is the holidays.