Supermarket giant Asda has announced it will not open its stores on Boxing Day so staff can have more time to see their families over Christmas.
Chief executive Roger Burnley said all of Asda’s 631 stores will close on the 25th and 26th of December.
He said he wanted as many employees as possible to enjoy the five day relaxation of coronavirus restrictions, when three households are allowed to mix indoors.
In a message to employees he said: ‘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.
‘As you know, the strict guidelines set out by the government will change between 23rd and 27th December and more households will be able to gather together.
‘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 December 27.’
The announcement follows in the footsteps of Aldi and M&S who have also said stores will be closing on Boxing Day.
Asda said staff who were contracted to work will be paid and that all eligible hourly-paid workers will receive a guaranteed 100% bonus for their ‘unstinting hard work and commitment’ during 2020.
The news has been welcomed by union bosses, who have called on other retailers to follow suit.
General secretary of the shopworkers’ union Usdaw, Paddy Lillis, said: ‘When the country faced a crisis unlike any in our lifetime, shopworkers stepped up and kept essential services running.
‘They continued to work and faced increased levels of violence and abuse, as well as being worried about catching Covid-19.
‘So we welcome Asda doing the right thing by their staff with the closure of stores on Boxing Day.
‘Key workers have done so much this year and we are asking retailers to give their staff the longest possible break over the festive season. We don’t think that is too much to ask for.’
GMB national officer Roger Jenkins said it was a ‘shame’ that Asda workers were not given Boxing Day as extra holiday and ‘will have to book a day of their annual leave entitlement’.
But he described the announcement as a ‘step in the right direction’, adding: ‘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.’
Three households will be allowed to mix indoors between December 23 and 27 under a Christmas bubble deal agreed between the four home nations.
After the plan was revealed in November, M&S said it would not open on Boxing Day.
CEO Steve Rowe said that the staff had worked incredibly hard and deserved the time off to spend with their loved ones.
‘2020 has been a uniquely challenging year for everyone and this Christmas, the celebrations we have will be more precious than ever,’ he said.
‘That’s why in the run up to Christmas we are opening longer hours and have accelerated the launch of new digital services such as Sparks Book & Shop to help our customers prepare, but it’s also why we have taken the decision to close our operations on Boxing Day so that our colleagues can enjoy more special time with their loved ones.
‘This is a big decision, but it is absolutely the right one given the incredible effort everyone has made in the most challenging of circumstances.’
Waitrose, John Lewis, Home Bargains, Homebase and Pets at Home have also announced they will remain shut.
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