Boxing Day: Pressure mounts on supermarkets to close

Boxing Day: Pressure mounts on supermarkets to close

Supermarket chain Asda is to close on Boxing Day as part of a thank you to staff who have worked throughout the coronavirus crisis.

Unions have been calling on major supermarkets to give all staff the day off on 26 December.

Asda follows retailers including Marks & Spencer, Pets at Home, and toy store The Entertainer in closing.

Sainsbury’s said it planned to open stores on Boxing Day, but that most staff would have the day off.

Supermarkets have seen huge demand, especially for online services, as well as staying open during lockdowns while other retailers and firms in the food and drinks industry had to close.

As part of a thank you to staff for their work during the pandemic, Asda said that all of its 631 shops would close for two days over the Christmas break.

Frontline staff will also get 100% of their bonus entitlement regardless of whether they have reached sales quotas.

Asda chief executive Roger Burnley said in a message to 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 had been “requesting Asda to allow their keyworker heroes family time over the Christmas period, so we are really pleased they have agreed to our calls.”

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.”

The Usdaw union, which represents shop workers, has also been calling on all retailers to close their doors on Boxing Day.

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said at the end of November: “With the country facing a crisis unlike any in our lifetime, retail and distribution workers have stepped up and kept food on all of our tables… 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,” he said.

However, supermarket giant Sainsbury’s, which has a large network of convenience shops as well as larger outlets, said on Wednesday that its supermarkets would remain open, albeit with reduced hours.

“We’re recruiting more colleagues into our business than ever before so that we can give as many people as possible the time off they have asked for. This includes 12,000 temporary colleagues to support us this Christmas,” a Sainsbury’s spokesperson said.

“For colleagues that have requested it, we have made sure they are able to take at least two consecutive days off over Christmas,” the spokesperson added.

Sainsbury’s said that customers expected its stores to be open on Boxing Day so they can top up on fresh food.

It said it had reduced hours on 26 December after requests from staff, and that it had tried to give Boxing Day off when staff members requested it.

In addition, it said it had made two thank you payments to staff this year.

Tesco and Morrison’s had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

A number of retailers are to close for Boxing Day.

Marks & Spencer said in November that it would reverse its decision to open on Boxing Day so staff could spend more time with their families.

Poundland said earlier in the year that it would stay closed on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, while retailers including Wickes, Pets and Home and the Entertainer have also said they would be closed.

John Lewis and Waitrose are normally shut on Boxing Day, and will remain so this year.

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