Pressure is growing on major retailers to remain closed on Boxing Day, as unions encourage supermarkets to follow Asda’s lead and reward employees with an extra day’s holiday.
Marks & Spencer had already decided not to open, in addition to Wickes and Pets at Home among bigger names. Waitrose and John Lewis will be closed, as they always are on Boxing Day.
Sainsbury’s said on Wednesday that it would remain open on Boxing Day but with reduced staff hours and it would give employees the day off if they requested it. Morrisons said it would also be open to customers, with those staff who volunteered to work getting double pay. Tesco said it would open stores but would reward frontline staff with an extra 10% bonus over the Christmas and New Year period.
Asda said that all of its 631 shops would close for two days at Christmas, with frontline workers receiving 100% of their bonus entitlement regardless of whether they have reached sales quotas.
Asda chief executive Roger Burnley told staff: “This has been a challenging year and you have all done an incredible job, continuing to serve our customers and communities while juggling so many other commitments.
“But it’s also been challenging from a personal perspective as we have not been able to spend time with our families and friends, which has been hard for us all.
“This is of course our busiest time of year but it was important for us to give as many of you as possible the opportunity to spend this time with those loved ones that you may not have not seen for many months so, uniquely for this year, we will not reopen our stores until 27 December.”
The GMB union said it was very pleased that Asda had decided “to allow their key worker heroes family time over the Christmas period”.
Roger Jenkins, GMB national officer, said: “It’s a shame this is not extra holiday – workers will have to book a day of their annual leave entitlement.
“But it’s a step in the right direction and GMB now calls on the rest of the retail sector to follow suit and repay these key workers with a chance to spend Boxing Day with their loved ones.”
Last month, Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said retail and distribution workers had stepped up and “kept food on all of our tables”. They deserved an extra break because “when others stay safe at home, they go out to work”.
“The only way they will be guaranteed a decent break at Christmas is if food retailers close for Boxing Day,” Lillis said.
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson added it was recruiting more extra staff than it ever had previously “so that we can give as many people as possible the time off they have asked for”.
The supermarket was recruiting 12,000 temporary colleagues to support it this Christmas, the spokesperson said.
Tesco said: “Our stores are open for reduced hours on Boxing Day. Many of our customers rely on their local stores over Boxing Day – from families in search of essentials, to key workers needing access to food.”