Boxing day blues

By Abigail Wilson

Ahhhh Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. A time of celebration and relaxation. Time to get the family together and make lifetime memories. But is it? Not anymore.

Many companies are currently hiring Christmas temps to work through the festive period. Students in particular, those at University, sixth form, and college, are particularly likely to apply for these roles, in desperate attempt to earn some extra cash and experience in the run up to Christmas. These jobs are good for earning a bit of extra money, but are usually long hours. So is it all worth it?

Christmas temp jobs are changing the nature of Christmas as we know it. In many cases, students are being forced to work throughout the Christmas period, sacrificing valuable time spent with family and friends. These jobs are often demanding and require students to work Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, keeping students stranded at University, away from their family and friends. Trains home are extortionately expensive, and the traffic is absurd, meaning that many University students will be spending this Christmas alone.

Is it fair that students and workers have to miss Christmas and precious family time, just to earn some money? Are companies exploiting people desperate for a job?Most of the time, students have no choice. Many companies require employees to work Christmas Eve and Boxing Day as part of their contract. Some students are vulnerable and will agree to working these long hours. If they don’t, in the majority of cases, they will not be hired or could even be fired. But students are deciding to make these sacrifices for the greed of retailers. It’s not fair and needs to stop.

Christmas Day isn’t enough time to see all of your family, from all areas of the country, if not the world. It’s definitely not enough time to catch up with friends either. In some cases, this is the only time of year that students will be able to see their families.

Boxing Day sales are a key event for many UK stores. Not only is the busy environment of working Boxing Day stressful for workers, shops such as Next and Matalan open their doors at 6am on Boxing Day, meaning that workers are compelled to do ridiculously long, tiring hours.

Two petitions calling for retail to close on Boxing Day have been created and they now have over 300,000 signatures. The petitions call for retailers to respect Christmas day as a religious holiday and to enable retail workers to enjoy some family time over this period.

The petition was created by Ian Lapworth, a baker and former DJ from Kettering, who argues that the Christmas holiday should be respected by retailers so that staff can have “some decent family time to relax and enjoy the festivities like everyone else. We managed 30 and 40 years ago when shops were sometimes shut for a whole week. Let’s get back to the way it was.”

Although over 300,000 individuals agree that closing stores on Boxing Day is a worthwhile idea, a similar petition was launched last year, also calling for stores to remain closed on Boxing Day. It received an official response from the Government saying: “We do not believe it is for central Government to tell businesses how to run their shops or how best to serve their customers. Therefore we are not proposing to ban shops from opening on Boxing Day.”

However, this year’s petition has smashed its 150,000 target, meaning that the government will now have to consider debating it in Parliament. But will it ever change? Will we ever get to enjoy Christmas with our whole family again?

Not only is having shops open during the festive period damaging for the workers, it is also harmful to the family unit as a whole. No longer are individuals spending time with their families. Instead, people are rushing out to the shops in hope to bag the best bargain. Running around the shops is increasingly seen as a normal Boxing Day activity, with increasing numbers of individuals forgetting their families and ignoring the traditional meanings behind Christmas.

Christmas has become commercialised, and for many, it is more important to make money, than to spend Christmas with loved ones. Lapworth wrote: “Forget making money for one day, let’s concentrate on making more memories with the ones we love.”

Stop shops opening on Boxing Day. Some things are needed over the festive period. Retail isn’t one of them. Let families enjoy this precious, festive period together.

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