parents in my office stick non-parents with all the holiday coverage

A reader writes:

With the holidays coming up, things are getting tense in my office. There’s a divide between employees who are parents and employees who don’t have kids.

We are open on the holidays, full stop, no exceptions; we are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We’re a small office so when we hire staff, they are credentialed professionals in the field who know that we don’t turn our lights off. We do a lottery to fairly pick holiday coverage with the caveat that if you work Thanksgiving, you’re not in the lottery for Christmas, and if you work Christmas one year, you’re exempt the next year.

It used to work. But the last several years, the staff with kids started getting vocal about having plans and calling the lottery unfair as early as September.

Last year I worked Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve and Day since the staff picked in the lottery all called out, leaving a huge coverage gap. Several of the staff also have just started refusing to come in on holidays, period, showing our administration hotels and flights they already booked. This is wearing down the morale of those of us staff without kids or spouses. We’re usually run ragged after working low-staffed weekend shifts, which are also shifts the parent staffers are starting to grumble about. About 90% of the time, as the associate director, what I say goes. But there are two more managers above my head who the parent staffers frequently use to override me on this issue. I get the same joking tones from my bosses — “Oh, don’t be heartless, they have kids!”

I may not have kids, but I do have a wife and parents and friends who I would love to see, and so do my childless staffers, I’m sure. I don’t know where to go from here to keep morale up, but also inject a little more professionalism and fairness into the mix while maybe getting to eat some turkey myself this year.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 450 comments… read them below }

  1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    Burn it all to the ground.

    Just kidding. But then they wonder why the child free are so angry about people with kids. It needs to be made clear, the lottery system is the system. If you call out on the holiday, don’t bother coming back, you are fired. If you booked flights knowing full well what the system is (although maybe have the lottery earlier so those who don’t have to work can get cheaper flights) then so sad, too bad, you knew the system you gambled and lost.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      Fire the people who do not abide by the fair system.

      People without kids have partners, family (siblings, parents, niblings, in-laws), and friends that they may also want to spend the holidays with.

      If you are not willing to fire, you can be held hostage by rule breakers and rule flaunters.

      1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        Some people without kids also desperately want kids and can’t have them. I can’t imagine struggling with infertility and then being told I have to work holidays because I wasn’t able to reproduce.

        This letter makes me LIVID.

      2. Rex Libris*

        This. My parents are pushing 90 years old, and any Thanksgiving or Christmas I can spend with them is important. Kids are not the only consideration.

        Have the lottery early enough so people can plan accordingly, and make it clear up front that failure to show up will be considered job abandonment, so don’t come back.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          I once had a part-time job as a hostess at a restaurant. They barely scheduled me 15 hours a week. But expected me to work Thanksgiving. My 82 yr old grandparents were in town and I wasn’t risking not spending it with them.

          So I quit.

          Not everyone is in a place to do that, I get, but they definitely thought I was bluffing about not being willing to give up a holiday for a non-urgent business that barely scheduled me 15 hours a week.

          1. Bast*

            I’ve seen places punish people this way. They don’t like someone/have something they aren’t happy about so they’ll schedule them for 6 hours a week, and then suddenly come a holiday, or other prime day everyone wants off, they are sure to be working a full 8 hour shift.

        2. Phryne*

          People often comment on how hard it is to fire someone in Europe, but job abandonment is certainly one of about 6 reasons when it is completely legal to fire someone on the spot. Why an US company with presumably at will laws in play has been accepting this behaviour for years is beyond me.

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Honestly the other managers need to have this become their problem before it’s going to get fixed. I was in one of these types of jobs early in my career – and after the first holiday I won the lottery but still had to come in on my day off because of “call-outs” my spouse and I would plan on being out of town if I got the you’re off golden ticket. It took all of the younger childless or older empty nesters doing the same thing (being out of town) to make the managers finally start holding the kiddo parents who wanted every holiday off accountable.

      4. Wilbur*

        Everyone should just call out. Not scheduled on that day? Turn off your phone. They’ll figure it out eventually-they can’t fire the child free people, because it sounds like they’re already covering the weekend shifts anyway.

        1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          If it’s a place that keeps the lights on 24-7-365, there’s a reasonable chance that there’s some kind of emergency response or caretaking responsibility involved that would make it really hard or dangerous for everyone to drop the rope, even if it would get this issue fixed fast.

          1. Calpurrnia*

            Yeah, uh… my dad was an air traffic controller, and if everyone called out or refused to cover, a significant fraction of national airspace would become a no-fly zone. “Just don’t show up” works fine in an office environment, but it’s not actually possible in some jobs.

      5. Felix*

        Exactly, they need to recognize that people without kids might have family obligations. Also, if people making plans is getting in the way and they start grumbling in September, they should do this lottery in August before anyone is thinking about the holidays. They should probably also schedule a few more people than actually needed, knowing that some will flake.

        Like Allison said – incentivize working on the holiday with extra pay and PTO. I once worked at a 24/365 business, and they gave people the opportunity to volunteer for holiday shifts before assigning them. As one of the most junior employees who was guaranteed to get screwed, I volunteered to work Christmas Day from 10 to 6 – that way I was home in the morning for early presents, and back in time for dinner.

        1. Bruce*

          That is how my nephew handles it, he is happy to work holidays and get overtime pay. They do let him work a shorter shift too. It sounds like at this place they need to reset the expectations for the people who’ve been abusing the system, once it is enforced fairly they may be able to get some volunteers…

        2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          My sister has a medical job where there has to be someone in her office on call 24/7 365 days a year. There are something like 7 people in her role, and they have a clear rotating schedule of who works what holiday (some are big, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and others less so, like Memorial Day). So she already knows what holiday she’ll have on call in, say, 2026. People sometimes swap, like my sister swapped and covered Thanksgiving the year one of her coworkers was on maternity leave, but only in pretty extreme cases – and that swap meant that my sister got her next assigned Thanksgiving covered for her by her coworker. She still doesn’t love it when she has to work a holiday, but she is able to plan around it years in advance, and always knew it was part of the deal going into this field.

        3. allathian*

          When I worked retail as a student, I always volunteered to work the Christmas Eve shift, 9 am to 1 pm. I got paid double for the first three hours and quadruple for the last hour. (I’m in Finland and we celebrate on Christmas Eve.) The store was closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I still had plenty of time to help my parents prep our Christmas dinner and to celebrate with family.

          1. Phryne*

            In the Netherlands, christmas is two official holiday days. We as a family (non religiously) come together on one of them. Which one depends on when the family of my BIL comes together, who in turn depend on BIL’s sibling’s spouses family, because theirs is a compound family so they have more complicated planning to do.
            So when as a student I had a job that needed coverage over Christmas, I just waited until they had hashed it out, noted which day turn up for Christmas and let my employer know I’d be available on work the other day. We got paid double and it was always a quiet and short day anyway. (I recently was talking with my BIL’s mother that for the past 25 years, my christmas has been determined by people I have never met… :) I don’t mind, I’m flexible)
            Also, when I go to my family on holidays by train, all the people working in the trains and stations that day seem to be employees of Moroccan and Turkish origin. I imagine they don’t mind working these holidays if in turn they can count on getting the day off on days they want to be with their families.

        4. BethRA*

          Incentivizing working the holidays is a wonderful idea, but it’s not an adequate substitute for not sticking non-parents with all the holiday coverage. Extra money is great, extra vacation time is great – I still want to be able to spend time with my family during the holidays sometimes.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I think it’s worth acknowledging that isn’t the case for all employees, and many would make it work if incentivized appropriately. Quite a few people who don’t celebrate Christmas, or don’t celebrate Christmas on Dec 25th, or don’t want to spend time with their family, or can’t spend time with their family, would consider covering in exchange for something they do want (extra pay, different days off, preference for future lotteries).

            I’ve worked Christmas day before for extra holiday pay, and it turned out lovely. Most of the patrons were in a festive mood and grateful that we were open.

      6. Michelle*

        Many of the people being asked to work the holidays presumably have parents who would like to spend holidays with their children, too.

      1. Felix*

        OP should also put her foot down with her bosses about herself covering. If they are going to be loose with the system, then they can cover when no one shows – she has done more than her share.

        1. L'étrangère*

          And OP should take herself out of all lotteries next year, along with everyone else who got stuck working every holiday this year. What kind of hell is this €&+@-+!!!

    2. Anon Again... Naturally*

      I used to work in a field that had these kind of coverage needs, and you are 100% correct- if someone booked flights despite knowing they might have to work Christmas, and then got pulled, it would be ‘either be here or don’t come back’. The OP’s managers are enabling unprofessional behavior, and they’re going to end up with no one who will cover the undesirable shifts- because those without kids will leave, and those with kids will continue to refuse.

      1. Artemesia*

        no one should know they ‘might have to work Christmas’ — the holidays should be worked out early in the year so that vacation plans can be made. If a person gets Thanksgiving this year then they cover Christmas etc. You get volunteers first and if it sorts out great — if not then you do lottery for additional coverage. And next year, those who got Christmas this year, don’t.

        But it is done early enough that no one can argue ‘I already have plans and tickets.’ And if someone then refuses, you fire them.

        1. I Have RBF*

          See, as a CF person who is also not Xtian, I would be perfectly willing to work every Xmas, and get every Thanksgiving off. But there’s no way in hell that I would put up with always working every “family” holiday just because I don’t have kids. After two years of that I would be gone, because discrimination against non-parents doesn’t stop with holidays. It extends to every bit of time off, scheduling for unpleasant shifts, etc.

          Unless your workplace wants to lose all of its non-parent workers, they need to stop discriminating against people without kids. Non-parents still have families, just not kids at home.

          1. CJ*

            And as another non-Christian (pagan) who has days that I Will Fight You to have off (one of which just before Christmas, in fact), I find that once the “oh, he’ll work the rough days” pattern starts, _all_ of your day off requests start getting squashed.

            I’m not fond of sharp elbows in the office, but this is absolutely one of the cases.

          2. Totally Minnie*

            It’s already starting to extend to those shifts. OP says in the letter that now that they’re getting away with not coming in on holidays, they’re starting to complain about evenings and weekends.

            I’ve worked a job that was not exactly 24/7, but involved regular evening, weekend, and holiday-adjacent shifts, and I get how much it sucks. It’s a big part of the reason I don’t work in that field anymore. But the people who try to foist those shifts off onto other people and don’t do their fair share of unpleasant shifts are not people who are well liked by their coworkers or staff. I was a lot more likely to volunteer for an extra weekend shift to cover for the guy who worked every Saturday and wanted one day off than I was for my manager who was only scheduled for 4 Saturdays a year and still tried to get out of doing most of them.

        2. Scriveaaa*

          I think Anon Again is referring more to situations where you are on call over Christmas and therefore expected (and paid) to be able to come in and work if needed.

          1. Anon Again... Naturally*

            Yeah, I didn’t express this very well. This was a call center where we didn’t know the final coverage needs for Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year until early November, but we had enough staff that if everyone worked one holiday we would have way more people than we needed. Being a call center there was fairly frequent turnover. What they did was open up staffing signups for the three holidays several months beforehand based on the previous year’s coverage needs, and you could sign up for as many (or as few) of the holidays as you wanted. If you signed up in advance for at least one holiday, you would be excluded from the lottery if more coverage was needed for any other holiday. There was the (slight) possibility that we might end up needing fewer people than we had sign ups, in which case anyone on the list who didn’t want to work would go into a lottery to be removed from the day. I always signed up for New Year’s, because I am not a big party person and didn’t mind working that day, but there were always people who didn’t sign up at all who were then mad because they had made plans. If your plans were that important, you could have signed up for one of the other two holidays!

        3. Your Mate in Oz*

          Yup, a workplace that says “you can’t plan for holidays” is a bad workplace.

          Adding to that “only people with kids get the major holidays off” is just making it more awful.

          The third layer “you might think you have the major holiday off, but if someone with kids doesn’t want to work you have to”

          Still, the upside is that we’re established that refusing to work when told isn’t a fireable offense… you know what to do.

          1. Mongrel*

            “Still, the upside is that we’re established that refusing to work when told isn’t a fireable offense… you know what to do.”

            Too often though I’ve seen management coddle the rulebreakers only to double down on the people who they expect to take up the slack if they step a toe out of line

      2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        My husband used to work for a company that was open 365. He got double pay on holidays. They way their schedules worked, since they were open 7 days, was everyone got 1 weekday and 1 weekend day off. So the way holidays worked was if the holiday was on your off day-congrats, you’re off! If the holiday was on one of your 5 working days, well, you’re working but you’re getting paid double.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          That still doesn’t seem perfect, since while some holidays move around in the week (like New Year’s), others (like Thanksgiving) are the same day of the week every year.

    3. miss_chevious*

      I would absolutely burn this place to the ground (metaphorically). If I’m supposed to be off pursuant to the entirely fair and random lottery, I am not coming in. Period. Coverage or no coverage. If that’s a problem or it means we’re closed because there’s no staff then I guess we’re closed. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      If I win the lottery and have the holiday off, then I have plans. Maybe those plans involve marinating in cheetoh dust by myself on my couch or maybe they involve rescuing puppies from the side of a cliff in winter, but either way I am unavailable.

      1. They, Their, They're*

        May I please RSVP to these plans? Cheetoh dust* or cliff puppies sound like my kind of plans!

        * And I don’t even like cheetohs

    4. Kyrielle*

      THIS. And I say that AS a parent with kids who would very much like to have the holidays off. When I was still in an industry where someone had to be available those days, despite already having children and wanting that time off, if my name came up then I was on! (I did sometimes volunteer for Thanksgiving or Christmas in one year, knowing I really didn’t want to have to cover the other and that it would exempt me, and I was more than happy to let someone else take my shift if they _wanted_ – it came with extra pay for the holiday – but if your name comes up and no one wants to take it then you *do the work*. Sure, it’s nice to have the holidays off with kids. It’s nice to have them off without kids, too.)

    5. goddessoftransitory*


      The LW isn’t talking about bait and switch where tickets were booked in good faith and then the schedule was yanked, or a manager that refuses to organize time off in an efficient way. This is just flat out telling childless people that they are less valuable than anyone who has kids, and so is their time.

      1. SeluciaMD*

        If I were the OP, this is exactly the language I’d use. “Are you OK with telling employees without children that they are less valuable, that their time is worth less than employees with children?” If they answer yes, OP, it’s time to find a different job because that perspective is going to sink this whole business in more ways than just holiday coverage and childless employees will bear the worst of it. Not remotely OK.

        1. Rosemary*

          I guarantee there are PLENTY (Not all! But plenty!) of people who think that because they spawned children, they ARE more valuable than non-parents. And would not hesitate to argue “but think about the C h I l D r E n! You don’t to R u I n their Christmas without mom/dad!”

          1. Jaydee*

            Kids don’t care unless their parents make a big deal out of it. If the parents are cool about “hey, Mom/Dad has to work on Christmas Day, so we’re going to Grandma and Grandpa’s on Saturday, and then we’ll open our presents at home on Christmas Eve” or whatever the schedule ends up being, the kids will be cool about it too. Bonus: they get to open presents a day early!!!! But if the parents are all “I can’t believe I have to work on Christmas, this is ruining the holidays!” the kids will feed off that energy.

            1. ReallyBadPerson*

              Exactly! My husband frequently had to work holidays and weekends (IT job), so we’d just celebrate without him. It sucked, but the kids thought it was normal, simply because it was what we did.

            2. Yzziefrog*

              Exactly this! My parents used to own a convenience store open 365, and never would think of asking their employees to work on Christmas, and we all understood that this was what was needed to pay for rent and food. And then both my older brother and his wife were working in emergency services on rotating shifts. They had 2 young kids, but that was the system and I never got the impression that the kids suffered for it. For a solid decade, Christmas was December 27th or 28th in our family and what mattered wasn’t the date but having each other.

            3. Reluctant Mezzo*

              Totally. We moved Christmas one year to the 28th because that was when everyone could be there. The presents were just as great and the turkey had no comments.

            4. WheresMyPen*

              Totally! I knew a family where the mum was a nurse, so she would volunteer to work Christmas Day most years and they’d just move the celebrations to Boxing Day (26th). In some countries the big celebrations are on the 24th. It really doesn’t matter if you move the day, you still get to enjoy the same things

          2. No Spawn All Day Long*

            I once had a director ask why I had to leave work at a certain time (after well more than 8 hours of being there) “since you don’t have a family”. It really doesn’t compute to some people that the child free still have lives and, even if we don’t, we never signed up to work 24/7.

          3. aebhel*

            That’s just so obnoxious to me (and it’s obnoxious that management seems to be letting these people get away with it). My SIL is a nurse, so she sometimes has to work holidays, and when she does, she does the holiday thing with her kid a different day, or later or earlier – millions of people figure out how to do this, including parents! If you want a job where you never have to work holidays, then don’t apply for a job where you might have to work holidays. It’s literally that simple.

    6. Hazel*

      They should be angry about management who make poor decisions, not parents. Its unfair to stereotype a group.

      1. Bookmark*

        I don’t think anyone is saying it’s reasonable to be angry at all parents. It’s fair to be angry at the *specific* parents who are flagrantly flouting established rules and daring management to enforce them.

        1. Rosemary*

          Exactly. Yes be angry (VERY angry) at management for not handling it, but YES, it is also totally fair to be angry at *alleged* adults who behave this way and have no qualms about screwing over their co-workers.

      2. Kel*

        Yeah, I think the anger is justified here. Obviously management is also a problem but the people with kids are 100% being shitty about this.

      3. HB*

        Except this situation isn’t the result of management making a poor decision. It is explicitly the parents (presumably not all of them, but enough) causing the issue. Upper management’s involvement is limited to indulging the parents’ poor behavior when they go over the OP’s head.

        1. Sneaky Squirrel*

          Eh, I would say management is a little bit at fault here for not nipping this in the bud and imposing stronger enforcement on those who bail on their assigned work days. This is a several year issue now where this is happening, plenty of time for management to see the writing on the wall and react.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Yeah, management is 100% enabling this behavior. Like most issues where “coworker is being awful and manager won’t manage them”, the coworker would stop being awful (or be fired) if the manager would just do their job.

            You bought airplane tickets for a day you knew you couldn’t get off? That sounds like bad judgement on your part and if you decide to go on that trip instead of showing up for your assigned shifts you will be fired.

      4. Neutral Janet*

        Nah, the parents abusing the system are at fault here. Management is also at fault, but it’s not like the people taking the holidays off even though they aren’t supposed to don’t know what they’re doing.

      5. KC*

        These particular parents are making the problem exist in the first place by not honoring their commitments, so it’s absolutely proper to be upset with them.

      6. aebhel*

        In general, I agree. However, in this case the parents seem to be staging a functional mutiny about doing their assigned shifts and thus sticking their non-parent coworkers with them, so I think it’s fair to blame them as well.

        But management absolutely should have cracked down on this from the start.

    7. Critical Rolls*

      If you’re mad at “people with kids” you’re pointing your anger in a direction that A) is seriously overgeneralized, and B) only benefits the actual problem area, which is management/admin. They are the ones who profit from workers being mad at each other. They are the ones permitting or even facilitating the rule breaking. It isn’t especially material *why* people are breaking the rules and getting away with it — if it was just people with elderly parents or just people with dogs or just people who participate in the accounting department quilting circle it would be the same problem. But my lord do people LOVE to make things child-free vs parents, because it’s such an easy emotional button to push.

      1. I Have RBF*

        The management is the problem, true, but the parents are taking advantage of it and participating in the abuse of their non-parent coworkers.

        1. pope suburban*

          Agreed. The root of the issue is management, but I don’t have a high opinion of anyone who expects others to constantly sacrifice so they can have what they want. I believe in work-life balance and in flexibility, which is miles different from “time off for me, extra and unpaid work for thee.” I worked at a place where I would frequently be scrambling with three or four parents out, and it wasn’t just once for an emergency, either. I was mad at my boss for expecting me to do all that while not allowing me any time to take care of my own life things like doctor’s appointments or home emergencies, but I was also mad at my coworkers for faffing off all the time. This was a bit of a special case where I knew a lot of them were not actually doing the parenting work, but still…they knew damn well what calling out all the time meant for the business, and did it anyway because they did not care. No points for that.

          1. Xmas or bust*

            I’m working at a similar situation where my manager is constantly needing extra time off for child “emergencies” or because she wants to assert her own work-life balance, but it just gets delegated to the rest of us, and we are suffering for it. I’m trying to figure out ways to be assertive and put my own work and my own life first, but it’s hard when your boss is telling you to do something and walking out the door, and next thing you know, you’ve worked 9 hours and still have another hour of your own work to finish.

            Holidays are the worst. Until this year, I was volunteering to work through them since I can be more flexible with my vacation time, but they are really rough weeks because they are some of the busiest of the year, half the staff is off, and we don’t get holiday pay or overtime or anything.

            I am getting resentful, but I really need to figure out how to solve the problem. I insisted on taking Christmas and New Year’s off this year, so that’s a start.

        1. AskJeeves*

          You really can’t make a 1:1 comparison between human children and dogs. I have both, for the record. (To the letter, LW’s staff members calling out or refusing to work on holidays are being jerks. Management needs to enforce its own system.)

          1. amoeba*

            Yeah, especially in this context, pretty sure “my dog will be disappointed if I’m not home for Christmas!” is… not a thing. (Not saying that what the coworkers are doing is OK in any way!)

          2. Head sheep counter*

            No one’s commitment should have priority over someone else’s. Pets are a valid commitment. Children are too. My hobbies… valid. My interests… valid. I’m a whole complete person outside of work. To value one over the other is how we end up with these very situations.

      2. Head sheep counter*

        It is always the parents who abuse the systems in these cases. Never the elder care folks or the dog folks. If the work load is being unfairly balanced for “family” its… parents. Let’s face it – people don’t view anything other than children as acceptable reasons to behave like this. Family leave has only recently expanded to cover other meanings of family.

        In this case the spineless management are contributing to the problem… but the problem… isn’t elder care or dog care.

      3. Neutral Janet*

        Do you really think that if you aren’t punished for breaking the rules and seriously inconveniencing other people, you are somehow not doing a bad thing?

      4. Rex Libris*

        I assumed they meant “people with kids in this particular scenario”. Regardless, it isn’t management causing the problem. They are definitely enabling the problem through inaction, but the problem is that supposedly adult employees are acting like entitled brats at the expense of their coworkers.

        A reluctance to fire people on the part of management shouldn’t be taken as permission to do whatever one wants, assuming someone isn’t a spoiled ten year-old.

      5. GrooveBat*

        But in this case it is the parents who are abusing the system. They are the ones who are breaking the rules and denigrating the value of their child colleagues.

      6. Anon for this*

        If the parents weren’t bringing “but my chiiiiiiiildren” sob stories to the managers, the managers wouldn’t have the opportunity to be managing badly. I have a similar story, with the key difference being our lousy director unilaterally declared that myself and my coworker (both childless) would be in charge of escorting auditors around, because our coworkers with children couldn’t be expected to take time out of their days to do that. The coworkers were trying to figure out if they could arrange childcare on those days when the decision was yanked out of our hands. Bad leadership is bad, but in this case, they wouldn’t be caving to unreasonable people if there weren’t unreasonable people to cave to.

      7. Kotow*

        Yes, it ultimately **is** a management problem. But none of the other groups you mentioned are consistently breaking the rules. It’s specific parents who know the coverage rules, who know that they could be working on holidays and are blocking off time away from the office even when they’ve already been told that they have to work. It **is** reasonable to be angry at these individuals who are doing what they know is inappropriate and are doing it anyway. I think part of the issue with management is that when people are doing outrageous things, sometimes you don’t know how to respond, and this is only compounded when it’s multiple people behaving outrageously.

      8. JelloStapler*

        True, and as a parent I could not imagine dumping things on my child-free colleagues (the only consideration I need is enough lead time to make a plan). The LW makes it a child-free vs parent thing… because that is how it is happening for them.

      9. Critical Rolls*

        I’m not defending this behavior, as I think was clear in my comment. Y’all can check out the rest of the comment section (or your own comments) and see how many are saying, “ugh, yeah, that’s how parents are” with no interest in qualifying the statement. Why would anyone be surprised that parents who don’t don’t do this stuff don’t like the sweeping generalization, and the blame on all parents, and the insistence that all parents think of people without kids as lesser or automatically having fewer/lesser obligations? It happens in the comments every time there’s a post like this and it’s a tiresome straw man (or is it a red herring?).

        See, there’s that emotional button where the ease of getting mad at someone we’re told thinks they’re better than us overcomes the fact that MANAGEMENT IS THE PROBLEM.

        1. Mama Llama*

          And frankly, parents NEED deference sometimes*. As someone who had significant birth / postpartum complications and was back at work three months later, still physically wrecked, I’m also uncomfortable with some of the sweeping generalizations here. Standard “maternity leave” where I work is six weeks at 50 percent pay (and that’s only if you birthed). Culturally (in the U.S. at least), our problem is not that we are too supportive of working parents.

          *Obviously the parents in this post are being jerks, but that’s separate from my point here

        2. Susannah*

          Yes, management is the problem. And it’s terribly unfair to say all parents, or even most parents, are like this. In fact, a colleague of mine with two small children (one with health problems) seems to work extra hard, early am and evenings, to make up for when she needs to take her kids to school or doc appointments. And I am more than happy to cover for her when she needs it, since she’d do the same for me, genuinely appreciates the help, and goes overboard trying to make to make up for it.
          BUT, it is a fact that the default view in the workplace – if one “side” or the other is in conflict — parents are viewed as the ones with more, and more defensible, responsibilities and priorities. If I wanted Sunday free to take yoga class but a parent wanted to go to a kid’s soccer game, the parent wins out. Every Time.

        3. Head sheep counter*

          It can be both a management as the problem… and people. Management wouldn’t be behaving poorly about managing this situation (see the policy of having a lottery) if folk weren’t abusing it. So its chicken vs egg. And sure its not all parents… but… if the uniform response from folks who aren’t parents is yes this happens to me… perhaps its more parents than one likes to reflect upon?

          No one should have priority in the I get deference lottery. Our lives outside of work are just that. Outside of work. Its great when work can accommodate various needs/wishes… but fundamentally work doesn’t exist to provide said accommodations nor do one’s colleagues.

        4. Dog momma*

          The sweeping generalization is bc everyone has their own story, my co workers(2) & my sister were like this. While their stories matched, others may not, exactly. But enough that in the end, their kids & activities are THE ONLY THING THAT MATTER. Not you bc you live across the country and you can only visit at holiday time. But you’re single, so WORK, gosh darn it. Your family will have to make due without you.

    8. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. If you know the lottery system and you know you might not get the day(s) you want, then you take your chances when you don’t get that time approved. You can certainly not show up, but that might be grounds for being fired.

      At a former company most of us had kids of various ages. We put in our wish list of holiday time in October and then the boss tried to make it fair. One of our team was Jewish, so there were other days that were important to them in the fall, which were covered at the time. Then we’d usually give them Black Friday off because they’d then cover one of the days around Christmas. If you had to swap, you talked to your team and if someone agreed, you let the boss know and it went on the calendar. None of this being stuck with never having holiday family time, but you might need to compromise year to year. One year a coworker and I split a day – I came in early and she came in after lunch.

      I think the big problem here is that people know the system and then started chipping away at it and have been allowed to do this. Management needs a spine. I think it is important to note that this kind of unfairness leads to people leaving. What other rules do those people ignore? Management needs to look at the big picture.

    9. Judd*

      >If you call out on the holiday, don’t bother coming back, you are fired.

      This is where it gets tricky. People get sick. It’s not inconceivable or impossible that someone could suddenly get sick on Christmas Day or New Years’ Day or whatever. But also, people lie.

      1. Labracadabrador*

        This would be one of the vanishingly few circumstances in which it could be reasonable to request a doctor’s note. Or at least a voicemail where you sound like death warmed over.

        1. Friendo*

          It’s tricky because getting a doctor’s note on a holiday is going to be much more difficult than on a non-holiday.

      2. Rex Libris*

        It’s normal to have exemptions in policies like this for people who can produce a doctor’s note or funeral notice, or whatever. The extenuating circumstances allowed just need to be narrow, and the necessary documentation specified.

        1. Bast*

          What doctor is open on Christmas though? Your only choice is pretty much the ER, which is expensive when you have something like norovirus and know you should just stay home.

          1. Rex Libris*

            Telehealth and some urgent care clinics might be options. Realistically though, what are the chances that someone will be so sick they can’t work on December 24th and 25th, then fine on December 26th? If someone is actually ill for several days, there will be some time in there where they can get seen by a doctor, clinic, or somebody. The purpose of such policies are to introduce friction to decrease the ease of abuse. I wouldn’t advocate it everywhere (or even most places), but the OP obviously works in an environment where the abuse of time off is rampant… and it’s better than firing people.

            1. Friendo*

              Well, plenty of primary care places are going to be closed on the 26th too, but also, statistically it’s not that unlikely. I have had to be out of work for one or two days many more times than I have had to be out of work three days.

    10. JelloStapler*

      Hell I have kids and if this is how it was when I took the job I would accept it and not except my colleagues to pick up the slack. We’d move our holiday celebration to another time. It’sd just selfish.

  2. Jane Bingley*

    That’s incredibly frustrating, especially in a field where 100% 24/7 coverage is necessary. I have several family members who work in health care, and it’s just a given that we sometimes need to move celebrations because their work schedule can’t accommodate our original plans. That’s life with a loved one who’s a nurse or a vet!

    It may also help to point out the obvious – if you keep punishing people who don’t have kids, they’ll quit, and at some point everyone who works for you will have kids and you’ll still need to figure out a workaround anyway. Better to do it now without discriminating based on family status. I’d also suggest very direct language like “this is part of life in this field. It should not be a surprise to you or your families. If you can’t accommodate holiday work or call in repeatedly on holidays, you need to reconsider whether you are able to work in this field.”

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      THIS. You knew what field you were in when you took the job. You knew the hours. If you don’t like, you are free to choose another field, go work somewhere or any other option other than dumping on the no kids people.

      1. Clorinda*

        Speaking as a person with children, I agree 100%. Shame on those parents.
        Sometimes parents do need special confirmation, as does anyone with caregiving responsibilities, and abusing the system in this way just makes it harder for everyone when they truly do have a kid who breaks his arm the day before Thanksgiving.
        play fair, people.

    2. Never Boring*

      And in fact, in some jurisdictions it’s illegal to discriminate based on family status in the workplace, and family status includes not having a spouse or kids.

    3. LCH*

      “at some point everyone who works for you will have kids and you’ll still need to figure out a workaround anyway. ”


        1. Anon for this*

          If you’re encouraging people without kids to self select out because you aren’t letting them make plans when the lottery gives them holidays off you will.

    4. The Prettiest Curse*

      The people with kids are also complaining about working on weekends too. So if this doesn’t get resolved in relation to holiday coverage, the employees without kids are going to end up working all the weekends too.

    5. Observer*

      if you keep punishing people who don’t have kids, they’ll quit

      It was already happening. The OP posted in the comments, where they mentioned that in the time between sending the message and posting, 2 people had resigned and one of the things they had cited was the issue of coverage.

          1. linger*

            Since some details have already been asked about upthread, here’s the text of that comment (I’ve marked the most relevant parts in boldface).

            1. The holiday lottery is done in August, and we do have time -and-a-half holiday pay so the incentives are already in place. This is a mental health service (don’t want to go over much into details) and all of our staff sign an availability agreement upon their hiring that they are aware of the possibility of working holidays and the necessity to rotate weekends.
            2. Some of the flight and hotel scheduling we’re finding out now was actually bogus – just a way to not have to be included in the lottery. 5 staffers have done this over the last three years. My admin’s eyes are open now, for sure.
            3. We are seeing turnover already. In the short time between my submitting my question and today’s posting, we have had two staff members resign, citing holidays, weekends, and feeling overloaded and dumped on as reasons they quit.

    6. HotSauce*

      I used to work in a field like this, I had it out with someone once due to this very situation. I told them if they don’t want to work holidays they should go work for a bank or the post office. The entitlement some people have is honestly mind blowing.

      1. Anon for this*

        Yep. I was once a supervisor for a security guard company. We were 24/7/365 and if you didn’t show up for your shift someone (usually the guard that was on duty, or the supervisor) had to cover it immediately. After firing the guy who most consistently called in on weekend evening shifts because his uncle’s brother-in-law’s wife was in the hospital, or whatever, the call-ins overall decreased considerably.

    7. Jade*

      I work at a hospital. Holidays are granted yearly. If you call off on your scheduled holiday say goodbye to your bonus pay. Keep doing it, say goodbye to your job. As it should be.

      1. SometimesCharlotte*

        I used to work for a giant retailer. When I started if you called in the holiday or the shift before or after, you didn’t get your holiday pay (which was your average daily hours automatically added to your check). Then in their wisdom, they got rid of holiday pay to instead give us more (lol more) PTO. And there went the incentive to come in for your holiday shift.

        As much as I want to give grace to people and to understand that even on a holiday you can truly be sick (I had covid for christmas 2021), I do feel that if you call off on a holiday, you better have a documented illness.

    8. I GOTS TO KNOW!*


      I’m a step-parent. We don’t have my bonus kids for every holiday. So you know what we do? Celebrate the holiday a different day.

      My husband used to work for a company that was open 365. When he had to work on holidays you know what we did? Celebrated the holiday a different day.

      Is it the a little bit of a bummer? I mean, sure. But it’s life and you roll with it, especially if you **chose** a job in a field where 24/7/365 coverage is how it works.

      It’s really not hard.

    9. Beka Cooper*

      My dad is a musician, so he is usually working on church holidays. We just…celebrated later, and it was fine. Granted, I don’t really remember what it was like when I was a really little kid, but as a teen and young adult, we often had our Christmas celebration with my dad’s side in January. Everybody has better availability then, too, and you can get a lot of gifts and stuff on sale!

    10. GrooveBat*

      It is absolutely not the case that “someday everyone who works for you will have kids.”

      Where do people get these antiquated and foolish ideas?

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I believe the poster meant that all the people without children would find other jobs and leave, so there would only be parents left. I didn’t read it as meaning that they think everyone will eventually have children.

      2. Jane Bingley*

        To be clear, I mean that ONLY in the very specific case of a small company in a field that requires 24/7 coverage but parents are exempted from holiday pay. If you reward parents and punish non-parents, your organization will retain parents and lose non-parents, until it’s no longer sustainable to reward parents.

      3. Jaydee*

        They don’t mean that all the current employees without kids will eventually have kids. What they mean is all the people without kids will be motivated to look for other jobs and will eventually quit (and hopefully leave some Glassdoor reviews to warn childless people applying for jobs there what they’re in for) leaving just the folks with kids working there.

      4. nodramalama*

        what? they mean because everyone who doesn’t have kids will keep quitting because their time off gets put off in favour of people with kids

    11. Sad Desk Salad*

      This is the point I was going to make. This company is going to rapidly become known as the one where childfree people are punished and parents can get away with anything, so parents are going to flock there and the childfree will go to a place that has a sense of fairness. Then all the parents will be fighting amongst themselves, and the place will implode.

  3. Rondeaux*

    Could you do an office “kids vs no kids” trivia contest, three legged race, escape room or some other competitive activity where the winning team gets their way this year, then alternate each year so it’s fair

    Or just go back to the old way but enforce it.

    1. B*

      This may be wholly unrealistic, fiscally, but I’d like to see an auction system in this situation. Set aside a bonus pool specifically for people who have to work on major holidays and let them name their price. If someone has to do it, they should be doing it voluntarily and compensated at a level that makes them satisfied.

      1. Rex Libris*

        It did occur to me that if they were willing and able to offer holiday pay (time and a half or double time) the problem would probably solve itself. Some of the overly entitled parents involved would probably be less family oriented all of a sudden if there was money in it.

  4. Falling Diphthong*

    Everybody without kids could also just flat out refuse to show up when they’re scheduled on a holiday. Apparently nothing happens when you do that.

    (I would encourage this if I wasn’t certain that the people who think the note on the break room microwave is about them would feel guilty and try to cover everything.)

    1. Emily*

      Oh no, the people without kids would certainly get in trouble if they did that. This is a workplace that clearly has two entirely different sets of rules based on parental status.

      If I worked at this workplace I would be tempted to pretend I had a child, “Please, I’m all she has in the world!”

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Familial status is a protected class where I live in the US. I’d be filing complaints with the division of human rights and anyone else that would listen.

      2. Emily Byrd Starr*

        I’m reminded of that scene from Titanic when Billy Zane picks up a little girl and says,”Please let me in the boat! I have a child! I’m all she has in the world!”

      3. Flor*

        I really want to know what this office would do if a childless employee presented the managers with their pre-booked transatlantic flights to visit their elderly parents when their name came up in the lottery.

        I’m guessing, based on the “But they have kids!” attitude, they wouldn’t be quite so accommodating here.

    2. GreyjoyGardens*

      Honestly…depending on how replaceable the employees are (if it’s professional, probably not nearly as much as retail) maybe calling in “sick,” dropping the rope, and triple-dog-daring the bosses to fire them might be something to try. Risky, to be sure, but… depending on the geographical location and the field, “credentialed professionals” might have more power than they think to push back. This isn’t 2010 anymore.

    3. SopranoH*

      I feel like you could accomplish the same thing by refusing to cover for call outs. “No, sorry, can’t come in. I made non negotiable plans after I won the lottery. I’ll be unavailable.” Doesn’t matter if non negotiable plans are sitting around in your pajamas. It’s not my job to cover because management won’t manage bogus call outs.

  5. OrdinaryJoe*

    Boggles my mind … as the child of two medical professionals, it was so normal to possible open presents Christmas Day afternoon, the 26th, Thanksgiving on Friday, etc. It’s the spirit of the holiday, not the calendar date.

    Not sure what your shifts are … 8 hrs? 12 hrs? Is there any way to split those between more people? I’m not sure if that would cause more issues or less but people might be a bit more willing to work if they know they still have … Christmas morning and don’t have to be at work until noon and the same with people who work the morning shift. Just a suggestion!

    Also, seconding the ‘Lottery by Sept 1’ so people can plan suggestion.

    1. Mimi*

      The parents have booked tickets meaning they are planning to be far away whether they were supposed to work 4 hours or 8 hours.

      1. OrdinaryJoe*

        Yes :-) I wasn’t thinking this year but for future years to help solve the problem and make working holidays easier. You book your tickets to leave after your shift or whatever.

        1. JelloStapler*

          The management would have to enforce “expect to work – we will not honor tickets bought after the lottery for dates. Plan accordingly.” because if they bought them before the lottery they were taking a risk, and if bought after they were hoping to weasel out of it.
          So if the complaint was made with tickets they go “You know the rules. Plan accordingly and if you call out (without adequate documentation of an emergency I guess) you’re fired.”

      2. I'm just here for the cats!*

        If they have kids and have booked travel then that means they are also seeing their parents or siblings at christmas, and don’t want to work “just becasue of the kids’. The childless people would also like to see their parents and siblings for christmas.

    2. Lilo*

      Yep, my Dad worked ER shifts on Christmas, we did just fine.

      If your managers let those with kids ignore clear workplace policies, find another job. the fact that management is letting this go is the big problem here

    3. Umami*

      Same. My mom was a nurse aide and was always busy before and on holidays because that’s when families would come visit her patients. So we celebrated the next day, or whenever it worked out. I used to work for a newspaper, and I did the same with my kids – we celebrated when I wasn’t on duty. People making travel plans before the lottery are knowingly bucking the system, and that should not be allowed. Do the lottery early in the year, and definitely have consequences for those who don’t show up for work on their allotted days.

    4. Ashley*

      I get the lottery system but I would hate not knowing until September 1. My holidays for the following year have to be booked 10 months out thanks to family living in tourist traps which I know is a little extreme but it is my reality for the foreseeable future.

      1. Elves Have Left the Building*

        Yeah, I actually don’t know why they don’t do it right after the first of the year for the entirety of the year. I know C’mas and Tgiving are “the biggies” but what 4th of July? Spring Break for the kids? Do it early in the year and ENFORCE IT.

        1. Critical Rolls*

          Depending on turnover a year might be a little far out, but no later than July. In Ashley’s case volunteering every other year or some such might enable control of the schedule.

          1. Ashley*

            I got smart and picked a role that isn’t 100% coverage for the holiday, and then just negotiate it as part of my package. My industry really just needs a skeleton crew and I am in the solid middle to have enough sway. It could happen I may have to work remotely a day, but every job knows I will not be in town.

          2. Elves Have Left the Building*

            I’d say handling turnover could be pretty easy–whoever fills the role that left also gets that schedule assignment for the year. Only sticky wicket might be someone leaving right before the holidays and not backfilled yet, but that’s a problem they could have anyway….

        2. Not Boring*

          Some of us have never been able to get the rest of our spouse’s extended families to be able to plan that far ahead in order to pick dates for the all-family get-together. If you’re trying to coordinate 3 – 4 households, each of which has multiple working adults and multiple kids with separate sets of school commitments, that’s asking possibly a dozen or more people to know their entire schedules possibly close to a year in advance. I ran into this and it simply was not realistic.

          1. Elves Have Left the Building*

            The lottery being done in advance actually HELPS with that because you KNOW your “set availability” for the year in advance. Doing it in July/Aug/Sep leaves Spring Break, Easter, various other religions holidays, Memorial Day, etc… apparently “up for grabs”.

    5. Trillian*

      When I was young, my father was always rostered to work Christmas Day so his seniors could take the day off. Once he was senior, and we were older, he’d roster himself to work so his colleagues with young children could get the day off. We’d get up, open presents, have breakfast, and then he’d go into the hospital. We’d often drop by to deliver a batch of Christmas goodies to the staff who were working Christmas with him. Then we’d do the rest of Christmas when he got home.

    6. Filicophyta*

      Yes, same. My dad was a factory worker, not a medical professional, but he had a safety role, and someone with his training had to be on site in person 24/7, even when the plant wasn’t running.
      We did many holidays a day early or late or at odd hours and it was fine.

    7. JamieG*

      Heck, my mom was a cook when I was growing up, and we did some weird holidays. Usually it involved getting up super early on Christmas to open presents before she went to work in the morning, and then just hanging out at home until she got off work so we’d go to the extended family for dinner. As an adult now, I have no idea how she had the energy to do all that, and I’m so grateful for her that she did. But especially if the kid is super little – like, sub-3 – they probably won’t know the difference between Dec 25 and Dec 27 anyway.

    8. Zombeyonce*

      Heck, I was 9 months pregnant at Christmas many years ago and my family just had Christmas in the middle of December so I wouldn’t miss it (with the option to move to early the next year if I went into labor early). What matters is the celebration and the people, not the date.

    9. Cat*

      All of this. I scrolled to see if someone brought this up. Healthcare workers, firefighters, police officers, etc. all have to work holidays whether they “have kids” or not. Have family members in these professions and we celebrate with them ahead of or after the actual day.

      It is flat out ridiculous that management has enabled this to this extent.

    10. RaginMiner*

      Child of an oilfield dad here, we DEFINITELY had holidays early, late, whenever the hitch was over. The parents in OP’s letter certainly can rearrange.

  6. Chocoholic*

    I used to work in a place that had 24/7 coverage and we asked people to sign up for 2 out of 3 holidays to work, and made the schedule from there. It worked pretty well for us and people were able to mostly have the holiday they wanted off.

    1. OrdinaryJoe*

      Yes – adding a choice is a great way to possible get buy-in. My parents always volunteered to do New Years Eve/NY Day because they didn’t care vs some stuff who really wanted that day or night off for parties, football, etc.

    2. Mari*

      I worked tourism for years – the deal was (and everyone knew it) you had to work two of: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day. Each day had two shifts, morning and afternoon/evening and you had to work a morning and an afternoon.

      I usually worked Christmas Eve morning and New Year’s Eve night – because my shopping was done, and I didn’t care about working NYE – it was always a stupidly late night, but they’d pay my cab home and the extra pay for the late night was good.

      I had ONE NYE when three of the nine of us scheduled didn’t show – and didn’t call. That was hectic as hell – there was a ticketed party on site AND the people who had reservations at the restaurant AND the folks who just wanted to see all the fireworks… Every supervisor on the roster showed up to cover stuff, they paid us all double time and the six who didn’t show? Five of them were fired. The sixth had ruptured his appendix, collapsed in a restaurant and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. He wasn’t exactly thinking about calling in… and the bosses got that :)

      1. Mari*

        Forgot to add:

        You ranked your requests – and the schedule was built from that. We had enough folks for whom Christmas Day wasn’t a thing that filling those shifts was actually easy – NYE was always the harder one to fill. If you requested all of them off, you were SOL… they’d fill you in wherever they needed you.

      2. workswitholdstuff*

        Yeah, I feel appendicitis chap has a legitimate no-show, no call excuse :)

        I’m glad your bosses followed through on the consequences for the others though!

    3. SopranoH*

      A lot of the places I worked for did this. It usually worked pretty well. Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Some people really want New Years off and some couldn’t care less. Tends to be more collaborative.

      1. never mind who I am*

        I remember one Frazz cartoon where the kids were talking about their parents working on Christmas. One worked on some Christmases because she was a nurse (needed), another because she was a police officer (indispensible), one was a sous chef (ambitious). One worked every Christmas. He was Jewish and kind to his co-workers.

        1. Anon for this*

          And some people don’t even care that it’s Christmas, but want a day around Christmas off anyway. I’ve been tasked with so many special projects this month, my boss is giving me several precious end of December days off. And making HR agree to not deduct it from my PTO bank because it’s their fault I got saddled with extra projects. I would probably need to take time off to recover this long after being assigned to work on something like this, even if it was in June. It’s just coincidental that it’s right before Christmas.

          1. Christmas is exhausting enough*

            I was like that, but my current company completely burned me the last two years, so now I’m going to start requesting holidays off from here on out. Since the last two Christmases and New Year’s fell on weekends, they said we already had the holidays off, so they did not offer us additional days off. So the people who took vacations time to spend with family. For those of us who thought we were being kind by working that week, we barely had a weekend and had to get through one of the busier weeks of the year, with half the staff, no OT or holiday pay or a makeup holiday. Ridiculous.

    4. soontoberetired*

      we do that – but we have people who automatically pick the non Christmas/Thanksgiving week. But thanksgiving is a great time for volunteering for coverage because it is a short week! So we did institute a rule that you had to take Christmas/New years at some point, and not duck out.

      I was the person without kids in my group, and it was attempted to guilt me into taking coverage every Christmas until I pointed out my elderly parents would be alone at Christmas if I didn’t go home. I am grateful my parents lived well into their 90s.

    5. workswitholdstuff*

      My call centre days we had a similar idea – though it didn’t always quite work…

      It was supposed to be 8-2 or 2 – 8

      One year I offered to do a Christmas Day Morning shift (8-2), as it concinded with the shift my best friend brother did in the same call centre, so I could pick him up enroute, and my best friend picked up him up at the end, but I could pop down, see my pal and give presents too – before we all headed off to our family christmases – my family has always done a late afternoon dinner, so all we had to shift was present opening till after dinner.

      The week before, managers realised that they hadn’t had enough volunteers to cover – so they were going to tell people they’d have to do it (some people threatened to call in, but were told they’d be disciplined for it).

      They did try to make me move to 10-4, but I pointed out I’d volunteered way back in September, precisely so I’d been able to chose and *know* what shifts so I could make arrangements around working it – and I wasn’t prepared to move it, given I’d *volunteered*.

      But they were also the nitwit managers one year that tried to make only *me* change my fixed hours off and not ask the same of the people with kids, because ‘they have kids and you don’t have commitments. Reader, I had a regularly volunteering day that was aimed at getting me into the actual sector I wanted to be in. I told them, they could ask all of us, or none of us.

      They also tried the ‘letters stating change of contracted hours don’t count as contracts’ line (I started full time, switched down when I started studying again). I pointed out that *everyone* in the centre had been told previously they did, as we’d all been told that by HR, and I’m sure that other people would be interested in hearing that definition…. (they backed off sharpish after that – I think they thought I’d just have folded, and the pushback confused them).

  7. not nice, don't care*

    Is there any legal angle to this? Maybe the childfree folks should get more vocal about discrimination.

    1. Emily*

      Unfortunately parental status is not a protected class (I think it should be), at least at the federal level in the U.S., but local and state laws may vary (assuming this letter is from the U.S.). That is not to say it may not be worth the childless employees talking to an employment law attorney, but frankly I think the first step should be the letter writer, who clearly has some power given their position, talking to the two higher ups, and I also think the childless employees should push back as as group. I think it is also awfully short sighted of the employees with children, though it’s not clear if they are all doing this or just some of them. They are not creating goodwill with their co-workers, and I know I would not lift a finger to help a c0-worker who thought they should get holidays off and I shouldn’t just because they have kids and I don’t.

    2. TootsNYC*

      In NYState, family status is a protected class. I think the OP might be smart to look into their state’s rules on this, because that’s a leverage they can argue to the people over their head.

      But the morale issue ought to be enough.
      Because pretty soon, all the single people are going to walk into the office with printed-out plane tickets and say, “sucks to you, we won’t be here.”

      1. Emily*

        Oh yeah, if it is a protected class where OP is, I definitely think OP should bring up the “we are putting ourselves in legal jeopardy here” point, but I agree that the morale issue ought to be enough. There are lots of things that employers do that are legal, but are morale killers, and if you want to get and retain good employees you need to worry about morale.

    3. anon for this*

      Parental status / family responsibilities is a protected status in one of the two places I live but not the other.

      There would be fines for the business and possibly jail time for every manager creating this illegal discrimination.

      I have flames, flames, on the sides of my face reading the situation. This is absolutely a hill I would die on. Letters to every newspaper and TV station if I couldn’t take this to court.

      1. allathian*

        Parental status may be protected, but does this mean that non-parents are also protected? Or that you aren’t allowed to discriminate against parents, but are allowed to treat them preferentially due to their family status? I’m thinking of age discrimination, where employees over 40 are protected, but not younger ones.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Parental status = “am a parent” AND “am not a parent”
          Your status can be zero. That’s still a status.

          (but in NYState, it is “family status,” not “parental status.” There are places where it’s “marital status,” which wouldn’t include kids, unless their courts or laws have defined it to include parental status as well.)

          That’s why Alison always says: We are all in a protected class.

          Race: I’m white; I’m protected. My colleague is Black; she’s protected. Every race.
          Every religion.
          Every ethnicity.
          Every family status, every marital status.

  8. Beveled Edge*

    Ah, insubordination. The holidays really bring out the best in people, don’t they. /s
    I spend half of my AAM reading time wondering how the people in these stories don’t get fired.

      1. Project maniac-ger*

        This brings up another layer to OP’s issue – so yes she gets to enforce the lottery until consequences must be dealt, then it’s “oh you can’t reprimand or fire them they have a family!”

        Stop making personnel decisions on who’s adopted/created dependents and these problems solve themselves!

    1. Wow, really?*

      In this case, it’s probably because the bosses letting them get away with it haven’t had to work that shift in their place or been severely affected by their absence.

      If they had to cover for them a few times, or lose some money, they would start enforcing it more.

      I had a

  9. straws*

    This is absolutely insane. I’m married with 3 kids and we celebrate Christmas. My husband was scheduled to work on Christmas this year. We just… made plans around his schedule for that day? He ended up switching days with a coworker, but that coworker offered and had another day he wanted off to swap – so it was a request that benefited both of them and was not sought out.

    So 2 points out of this – you can absolutely celebrate holidays without being off on the actual day of and there are people who don’t want to work certain holidays. The lottery system is a fair method that adults need to accept and abide by. It would be good if the option to swap days is allowed (which it may be and just wasn’t mentioned), but that should take place after the lottery draw and to the benefit of both people swapping.

    I just can’t believe that adults behave this way. I have so many friends in healthcare and military jobs that have never spent Christmas day with their kids, and it’s fine! Truly! They celebrate another day or in other ways, and their kids are just as happy. They want love and togetherness from their parents, not a very specific day off.

    1. Liz the Snackbrarian*

      Yeah, I have friends who had a baby this fall and are spending Christmas at home instead of going to see family, but going up a few days later. One set of parents announced that not being home for Christmas is a sin. I don’t understand this attitude/the attitude that celebrations have to be on the day of the holiday.

      1. MassMatt*

        Not to mention, every member of a couple has their own immediate families; it’s simply not possible for everyone to be with everybody on a holiday, even if they want to, which is a BIG if.

        Honestly, how is it that people resorting to these extremes of guilt and threats have anyone coming to visit? A family member resorting to this kind of drama would make it a near-certainty I would not be coming.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Definitely conditioning. I remember having HARD conversations with my husband about Christmas, in particular. He was pushing me to set boundaries with my family (which, fair, I needed to), but then said, “It won’t go over well if I tell my mother we won’t be home for Christmas eve.” (My suggestion, at the time, was, Xmas eve with my family, early presents with my mom in the AM, drive to his family for Xmas day, which really didn’t get underway until sometime in the afternoon.)

          Of course, I basically said the same thing to him – it wasn’t fair to ask me to set boundaries if he wasn’t also willing to do so. And turns out, he was worried for no reason – my family was more upset by this plan than his was!

          (It is moot, now – both his parents have since passed away, and the last 2 Christmases we had with my MIL (my FIL’s death was sudden), everyone understood that we were spending the whole holiday there. Once the boundary is drawn and stuck to, people are far more amenable. They adjust.)

        2. Jojo*

          For my husband and I’s first Xmas together, we had to get up at 6:00 am to have our Xmas together, then drive around the East Coast visiting everyone. We swore to never do that again. The next year, my mother-in-law created a bunch of drama about it. We no longer ever see her on XMAS day anymore, and she has only herself to blame.

      2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        To that, those new parents should say, “Oh, good, I am so glad you understand!” Since they are, in fact, staying home.

        1. Legally Brunette*


          My only sibling and I both worked shift work (in professional careers that require 24/7 coverage) the last 10 years or so. The calendar date mattered little; we celebrated together with our family whenever it made sense, and it was always lovely, with less traffic to fight!

      3. Artemesia*

        First thing I told my daughter when she got engaged was ‘now your holidays are going to get complicated; there are each of his parents, his sisters have in-laws, and then us — so just sort out what works for your family and let us know. We don’t care WHEN we see you, we just want to have some time to celebrate the holidays. The result was we had them come from out of town and stay with us for Christmas Eve and morning for years and then go to his family for Christmas dinner — it worked great. Why would any parent/grandparents want to make the holidays difficult for their adult kids?

      4. Lenora Rose*

        I understand it for actual Holy Days but not for family gathering purposes. You can’t exactly move, say, Yom Kippur or Good Friday, but you CAN move a family dinner even if the dinner is related to the religious event in proximity.

      5. Anon for this*

        See, I can see where some branches of Christianty would demand that sort of strict observation of the holiday. That makes sense. What I don’t understand, though, is why someone following said branch where not strictly being with family for Christmas is considered a sin would either a) willingly get into a career where working on Christmas is the norm or, failing that, b) willingly volunteer to work every single other holiday in exchange for the big one off.

        1. Dog momma*

          Not being home for the holidays is not a sin in any church I’m aware of. Family can use this excuse tO guilt you into coming…

      6. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        I have to say, one of the things I miss about Covid Times was the easy excuse to just stay home for the holidays. Not having to drive all over two different cities over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and the day after visiting all our relatives and instead, staying home and sleeping in on Christmas? It was glorious.

        It did at least help reset some expectations, and now we only do one day’s worth of that, and at least get home on Christmas evening. But it is not easy to fight the decades-long conditioning.

      7. Turquoisecow*

        I lucked out because my in-laws are divorced and remarried, one set doesn’t celebrate Christmas at all and the other set doesn’t Christmas Eve, leaving the day open for my family, so no drama about whom to celebrate with.

        (And now my in-laws are both in Florida for the winter so it’s even less of an issue.)

    2. TootsNYC*

      We used to celebrate Christmas late in the afternoon because we had to wait for my aunt to arrive from one state over; she’d attend her home the church service the night before, sometimes the morning of, and then drive to us.

      It was so exciting! We’d watch the driveway for her, and jump all around when she arrived.

      So having someone work a shift on Christmas can easily be made a part of the day’s happy rhythm. Mom’s home! Now we can eat and open presents.

    3. Elves Have Left the Building*

      Yeah people need to stop focusing on the DAY they celebrate the occasion. We’ve celebrated many a Christmas on the 26th because my military husband or firefighter son or nurse daughter was working, etc.. And we do Thanksgiving the Sunday before because my parents travel to have it with us, and then have it again on the traditional day with local family. It doesn’t lessen the importance or significance to work around a date on the calendar!

    4. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      The atmosphere in OP’s office reeks of parental entitlement. These parents believe that their families trump everyone else’s.

      And it looks like management reinforces that sense of privilege.

    5. Shreking Bawl*

      When I was in my early 20’s I had to work most holidays. My family scheduled around my schedule. One year, my father and all of my siblings woke up at 2am to make Christmas dinner, open stockings and presents, and send me off to my 6am shift. If a 21 year old who just graduated college can do it, so can a grown adult with a fully developed frontal lobe and children.

  10. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

    My company doesn’t need such extensive holiday coverage, but we do need some. There is additional compensation for holiday coverage, over and above what’s offered for non-holiday coverage. (Mix of extra time off and cash, rate determined by if you’re exempt or non-exempt, plus which holiday it is.)

    For the past several years, we’ve asked for volunteers, and gotten enough people to cover all the holidays. If we don’t, we have a drawing in late December for coverage. If you’ve already volunteered to cover a holiday next year, or you covered it this year then your name won’t be in the drawing. (We also consider New Year’s to be part of the prior year’s holiday schedule (ie, New Year’s 2024 is on the 2023 holiday schedule), so whoever covers it will have plenty of time to make plans around it.)

    1. Needs Coffee*

      The only thing I see wrong with this plan is the drawing in late December. I (and plenty of other people) do things like buy my holiday travel plane tickets as soon as they go on sale. Which means somewhere around May or June.

      Not knowing if I was going to actually be able to USE my plane tickets until a week before would drive me bonkers. (And would also result in at least 3 months of near-weekly questions from both sides of the family of, “Do you know if you’ll be able to travel this year?!?!”)

      I’m all for volunteers and randomizing. But I would encourage businesses to do the planning 3-6 months ahead of the popular scheduling nightmares.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        The first holiday on the list is Easter and ends with New Year’s – so if you’re going to be covering Christmas or New Year’s, you have a little over a year’s notice. (The drawing doesn’t quite line up with the calendar year – New Year’s Day 2024 is considered the last holiday of 2023 for scheduling purposes, rather than the first holiday of 2024.)

  11. Sunflower*

    I have said “I don’t have any children, but my parents do and they want to see us during holidays.”

    I don’t mind rotating but I will make a fuss if us singletons have to work ALL of them. We have a life too and like to do things by ourselves or with friends or family on holidays. Your choice should not convenience me.

    1. allathian*

      It also depends on the size of the family. There’s often an option to celebrate on an ordinary weekend if it’s just a small number of people. But if you have a large family dinner, it’s obviously a lot more difficult to schedule, especially if most of your family works in an office environment that doesn’t require continuous coverage.

      My husband, our son, and I are celebrating Christmas this weekend with my MIL, her husband, and my SIL. This is because my SIL is a Lutheran preacher in a small parish and as such she works most Christian holy days. She’s lucky to have got the 3rd Sunday in Advent off work.

    2. Sleepiest*

      I like this line but I feel like the bosses in this situation would somehow pull the “but their kids are LITTLE” line right back on LW for saying it, lol.

  12. Ama*

    I also wonder if holiday pay or a holiday work bonus could be arranged for the most contentious holidays? I can remember my grandfather being in management at a company that did this and he said people would get mad that they *didn’t* get assigned holiday coverage because the pay was that good.

    But I agree with everyone else that if you don’t have consequences for not following the system you have people are just going to keep going around it.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Holiday pay is a good incentive. First year hubby was working at a company, we made plans for my birthday. Then we found out that his company had triple time for good friday (because Easter Sunday was already double time as a Sunday so not much of a holiday pay boost). He asked me if we could move the plans a day. I was all – for triple time, heck yeah.

      1. JB*

        Or putting on a special lunch. At my work Saturday overtime in the office used to include pizza for lunch. If people have to work Christmas Day why not do a Christmas lunch spread?

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      We haven’t needed a drawing for holiday coverage for the past several years because some people particularly want the bonus (time off + money) that comes with it. Even before we started asking for volunteers, we had a few employees who would offer to trade holiday coverage because they wanted the bonus. (That’s what led to us starting by asking for volunteers first, and only doing a drawing if it was needed.)

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        It’s way easier to incentivize people to work holidays than force them into it, and then you’re much less likely to run into issues with people calling out.

        Right after college I worked for a company that supported hospital technology, so we were always open. They had special staff to cover nights, weekends, and major holidays, but they still needed coverage for minor holidays (like presidents day, labor day, etc). They offered double pay + a floating holiday so I happily took as many as I could. With those incentives we never needed a lottery, someone was always willing to work those days.

    3. GreyjoyGardens*

      I agree that if they are going to do this, holiday pay is a good compensation. What is bad is if the attitude is “bonus? Compensation? Your bonus/compensation is that you GET to KEEP your JOB!” It’s not 2010 anymore. “Credentialed professionals” have more options, of course depending on location and field.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I never worked for a place that provided holiday pay, but we did (until the pandemic) get comp days for working holidays. That also went a long way towards making it less painful and is something to consider if a large bonus is not an option (or even in conjunction with a bonus if the company can afford it).

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          Comp days are good too – in fact, just about anything that is not a slap in the face (like “here’s your $25 gift card) would go a long way towards making things fairer for those who do have to work holidays.

          1. BubbleTea*

            Are you saying a gift card would be a slap in the face? Extra money doesn’t seem particularly insulting.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              A $25 one would be, a triple digit one would not. But there are companies who think that $25 is great compensation for going above and beyond.

            2. Bookmark*

              Depends what the gift card is for, and how much. There have definitely been stories on here about people being given gift cards they couldn’t or didn’t want to use (ex: a restaurant you can’t eat at), and $25 when you translate it into an hourly wage would be pretty insulting for someone being paid a living wage to begin with.

      2. Anon for this*

        OP posted in the comments of the original post that they’re in mental health related services. Sadly with the (lack of) money allocated to such ventures, “your bonus is that you get to keep your job” seems to be what the people who allocate funding might be thinking.

        1. Emily*

          As someone who formerly worked in the mental health services field (and had to get out due to how it was impacting *my* mental health), I can attest to this.

    4. Lilo*

      I used to work for a theme park and they paid like triple for Christmas Day shifts. If a theme park can do it, an Office should.

    5. nonprofit writer*

      Yes to holiday pay! Years ago, in my early 20s, I moved to London on a 6 month work visa (I am American.) I worked at a bookstore and we were open every day except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, I believe. There were a bunch of other days during that period that were considered Bank Holidays, and I am pretty sure that year the UK declared more official holidays than usual because it was Y2K (so fun! I still have such fond memories of the fireworks over the Thames…). Anyway, our store paid double for some of those days, triple for others. I was thrilled to earn the extra money and was still able to hang with some friends on Christmas itself and on New Year’s Eve after I got off work.

    6. watermelon fruitcake*

      If holiday pay isn’t an option, maybe comp time could be.

      My office is not a 24/7/52 round-the-clock sort of operation so I suppose this is moot, but if I could get double pay to work Christmas Day – which I do not celebrate, not religiously, anyway – I would take it at least half the time if not more (exceptions really only being the occasions I have travel plans that happen to fall across Christmas). If I could get two paid days off to use later on, in exchange for one holiday, that would also be a worthwhile trade.

      My personal belief is that a system where people choose to cover holidays will always, always be a more effective system than one where people are assigned to, even by lottery or rotation. A system that rewards volunteers is a system that is more likely to get volunteers, and few people could successfully argue it is “unfair” to any employee or group of employees. (That last clause is not a challenge; I’m sure somebody will argue it is unfair on the basis of, e.g., “what if I do celebrate Christmas and I also need more money?”)

  13. Problem!*

    Do you work for my old employer? I had a boss who told the scheduler (we were also a 24/7/365 operation) to put people without kids on mandatory overtime and holidays because we, and I quote, “had nothing to go home to anyway”.

    Thankfully the saint of a scheduler told him absolutely not and refused, but it didn’t stop the guilt tripping from parents. It was worse when it was someone who graduated from the downtrodden child free class of employees to the parent class doing it. You KNOW how much it sucks to get shafted for not having procreated, and yet here you are doing it anyway.

    1. I Have RBF*

      Arrrggghhh! I would have been job hunting after a year of that garbage. Even when I lived alone I would still get together with friends or travel out of town to visit family.

      I really wish working parents would realize that even single, childless people still have families, just not their own children.

  14. E*

    This is what incentive payments are made for. People really do have different preferences regarding working during the holidays, and the way you accommodate that is you pay enough to get coverage. I do think in that scenario that parents probably will be more likely to take the time off, but this will be fair, because their coworkers will be compensated for it and everyone will have been offered the same deal. And it’s cheaper than people quitting or firing them.

    1. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

      What happens when if the kid-free employees DO quit all at once?

      1. E*

        You continue setting whatever the the market-clearing price for working on holidays, given the preferences of your current staff.

    2. BecauseHigherEd*

      To me this sounds like a small clinic/crisis center/needle exchange kind of operation, so I could see that incentive payments might be hard. BUT there certainly could be other non-payment incentives (better parking spot for the year, a couple free-floating holidays) that could be used instead.

      1. virago*

        You’re right. It’s a mental health service, said the OP, who came back to the original thread; their incentive is holiday time-and-a-half pay.

        Re: other, non-monetary incentives: A good idea, things might have been so far gone that they wouldn’t have worked here. OP said that two employees had resigned, “citing holidays, weekends, and feeling overloaded and dumped on,” in the short time between her submitting the question and its appearing on AAM. Yikes.

  15. Not a Grinch*

    I wonder if some sort of volunteer system before the lottery would help? I doubt it would solve all your problems, but if Susan always flies to her brother’s house with the family for Thanksgiving but then is just around on Christmas she might be willing to volunteer for a Christmas shift in exchange for guaranteed Thanksgiving off. If that’s her scenario then free Christmas off because she worked Thanksgiving doesn’t help her in any way. Also if you have those incentives Alison mentioned, a volunteer system might fill most of the slots before even requiring a lottery.
    I know my sister volunteers to work certain holidays because she’s out early and close enough to where we’re gathering that she can show up only a little late and that lets other people with longer trips take the day.

  16. TootsNYC*

    Isn’t this illegal?
    Maybe it’s state instead of federal, but in New York family status is a protected class.

    This should be alarming anyone tasked with protecting the company on legal grounds.

    I remember a single woman I worked with who said, “How am I going to GET married, and then have children, if I’m the one who’s always working late?”

    And ofcourse, she already IS in a family, even without kids.

    1. Phrog*

      I said the same thing to my grandboss when I was in my early 20s and working 60+ hrs/week because the people with kids didn’t want the overtime and I got stuck with it. But I didn’t want that much overtime, either!

  17. ZugTheMegasaurus*

    I’m childfree and generally happy to help cover for parents; on some level, I kind of see kids as massive stress-inducers that are extremely difficult to deal with, so I’m empathetic to their need to address that (I would never phrase it that way to them of course). But all the parents I’ve done that for have been totally reasonable about it, and always insist on returning the favor. I imagine my goodwill might disappear if it became a general expectation.

    1. anon for this*

      It surely did for me.

      “One friendly co-worker” turns into “half a dozen co-workers” and “once in a while” turns into “but you said it was OK last time!”

      And then before you know it, you’re covering for everyone and working 12 hour days, and your co-workers are only in the office for three or four hours (I’m looking at YOU, Susan) and insisting on meetings being scheduled over your lunch hour because that’s the only time they’re available and…

      *see also .gif of snowball rolling downhill and getting bigger*

      1. Slammed by a snowball*

        Yup. This.

        I used to be empathetic but after decades of being one of the people who gets dumped on, I’m over it. I don’t know if it’s generational or just where I’m working now, but these days there seems to be less gratitude when we fill in for people with kids and more of a sense of entitlement that their choice to have kids means they get special work privileges and an assumption that people without kids have no lives.

    2. Kel*

      I also think that this isn’t like, doing a favour. It’s people calling out and insisting they can’t work, vs. asking for some help occasionally.

  18. Portia*

    Evidently the parents are egging each other on here, and their assumption that their needs automatically override those of other kinds of people/families needed to be shot down immediately. (I can only imagine the effect their attitude has on people who want or wanted kids but do not have them.)

    Having or not having kids should play no role in assigning time off, and I hope that was clearly explained to these selfish people. Work in health care, and working some holidays comes with the job — for everyone.

    1. Annabelle*

      I just thought of that too, Portia. How awful this attitude must be for the childless coworkers expected to pick up the slack who are desperately wishing they had kids to go home to on Christmas??? Can you tell this hits too close to home maybe

      1. I Have RBF*

        Ooof. Yeah, I have known people who are desperately trying for kids for whom this kind of thing would be a kick in the teeth.

  19. Rach*

    Back when I worked retail, we always ranked which holiday we really wanted off so that they could try and give us our first choice. It worked really well for all of us – and since I didn’t care about NYE, I always got my first choice.

    Maybe something like that? It really helped evened things out between workers and staff was genuinely happy.

    1. MassMatt*

      I worked retail for several years; this kind of planning plus holiday pay can really help make division of labor fairer and all employees happier with the outcome. Over the years I have worked every single holiday, and while I don’t miss that, I knew going in what the job entailed and never felt as though I was singled out for the crappy shifts while others didn’t also share the burden.

      In the case of this letter, bad upper management is allowing the employees with kids to override the system, seemingly without consequence.

    2. Sally Rhubarb*

      Yeah when I worked in a field that required working on holidays (if they fell during our operating hours so any day except Sunday), I always offered to work Christmas in exchange for Thanksgiving. My mom’s birthday is around then (she was even born on Thanksgiving) so her birthday trumped Jesus’ in our atheist family.

    3. turquoisecow*

      When I worked retail we had enough employees that this worked out, for example on Thanksgiving a lot of people wanted to get out early because they had their family dinner at like 3:00PM. and we were open until 4:00. Meanwhile my family did our gathering at 5 or 6, so I was fine working the (slower) later shift.

      We were closed Christmas Day but some people spend Christmas Eve with families and some prefer Christmas morning, and others didn’t celebrate at all. Some people didn’t want to work New Year’s Eve, others preferred to work then instead of the morning on New Year’s Day.

      If the shifts are short enough that this can be juggled it seems like some compromises could be made. No, you might not get all of Christmas Week off, but maybe Jane can do Christmas Eve with her spouse, so Bob can spend Christmas morning with his kids, and Tom can have his Thanksgiving in the afternoon so Judy can have it later in the day, regardless of which of them has or doesn’t have kids.

  20. DD*

    Agree with Alison that a combination of incentives for those who work and holding accountable those who don’t.

    Can you have the lottery for the year in Q1 so people have a longer runway to plan/buy tickets/etc? I used to fly for the holidays I usually had my tickets purchased by the end of summer.

    Can you also set up some kind of monitored swap program once the lottery has picked? Someone may prefer to always be off for Thanksgiving because that’s their family celebration and they would be willing to work Christmas every year (especially if there was incentive pay or additional time off).

    1. Not a Grinch*

      I posted something similar to your last point (but I suggested let people volunteer first rather than swapping after). I know people who celebrate Thanksgiving but do nothing for Christmas so they might be willing to volunteer for Christmas if it means they’re guaranteed Thanksgiving off. You’d have to ensure they’re really volunteering though and not getting pressure.

  21. Michelle Smith*

    As someone who doesn’t have (and likely will never be able to have) children, this letter triggered my acid reflux.

    The audacity. I hope every childless person there revolts.

    1. LCH*

      yeah. i was thinking, won’t it be fun (awful) when this situation collides with someone who had a miscarriage or something. do they really want to convince that person to be the coverage for others with, “Oh, don’t be heartless, they have kids!”

    2. Ralph the Wonder Llama*

      I hope they collectively put in their two week notice on December 11. Not nearly as bad as OP’s situation, but I’ve been the person dumped on due to not having children. It’s a great way to generate fiery resentment of and disgust with coworkers and management. As Agra s morale goes, might as well send out a memo that says eff you people without children, your life has no value.

    1. Mimi*

      I mean whose children have not yet given them grandchildren. Because I am guessing they don’t go childless/work holidays -> parents/don’t work holidays -> no children living at home/work holidays -> grandparents/never work a holiday again.

  22. Exhausted*

    Sigh. This infuriates me. I used to work at a big company on a small team. One of my team members had kids and he NEVER had to work late. I wasn’t asked, but it was assumed that I would cover everything because, “he has to pick up his kids.” So, I quit. I’m not sure if he ever worked late, but it wasn’t my problem anymore.

    1. Absurda*

      Ugh! I hear you. I used to work on a massive, high priority project with tight deadlines every year with my manager. She would insist that we travel to a different state to work on it so we could pull in other members of the extended team (this was fine with me). I’d travel on the weekends so I’d have the whole work week to complete the project. My boss always scheduled her flight home for Friday afternoon so she could be with her family.

      Every year she left her work unfinished when she left on Friday. Every year, after having worked 90 hours for the week I’d spend all of that Friday night finishing her work (which had to be done before I could finish mine) and my work. It infuriated me every time. I mean, I don’t have a family to go home to, but darn it I was tired and desperately needed a break. If she just flew out Friday night or Saturday morning I would have been able to relax a little, but nope.

    2. amoeba*

      I mean, to be fair, nobody should be forced to work late and I think it was absolutely fine for your coworker to have clear boundaries – daycare pickup is not a thing you can really be late for! Sure, you could potentially do some extra work at home in the evening in really urgent cases, but also… maybe just address with your boss why they want you to work unpaid overtime instead of resenting your coworker for not doing that?

    3. Bear Expert*

      Your management understaffed.

      Daycares around here charge a dollar or two for every minute late on pick up. So when I have to hit the door, I have to hit the door. I don’t see this as different than my coworkers who take the commuter train and have to leave at a specific time or they’re staying in town until 8 pm.

      If management isn’t planning or staffed for work to get done regularly within working hours, that’s a management problem, not a parent problem.

      That is different than trying to opt out of the holiday rotation, which is a problem of these specific parents.

  23. LCH*

    “two more managers above my head who the parent staffers frequently use to override me on this issue.”

    sounds like those two really need to be working all the holidays then to provide coverage for everyone they are letting out of the system.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      OP needs to book plane tickets and then show boss why they can’t cover. Maybe if the bosses have to start working they will realize how bad it is.

  24. FD*

    When I worked in a hotel, they paid 1.5 time and the rule was that everybody had to volunteer for two of the Christmas adjacent holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s eve, New Year’s Day). You could choose to sign up for more.

    That seemed to work pretty well and they usually put up the sign out sheet in October so that you could plan around it. Back then, I usually volunteered for extra holidays to get the money. One year, I did make the mistake of volunteering for the New Year’s Eve evening shift and spent hours fishing beer bottles out of the swimming pool. After that I was careful to volunteer for any other holiday!

  25. Mytummyhurtsbutimbeingbraveaboutit*

    This is a boss problem, not one OP could solve. If there’s a reason it’s 24/7 I doubt having the place close to show a point is an option

      1. Elves Have Left the Building*

        But OP *is* A boss for “90%” of things. Presumably scheduling falls into his/her lap. The 2 bosses above keep undermining OP on this one bugaboo, but it doesn’t sound like they ARE worried about it.

  26. K*

    I think they need to seriously consider wether being open literally 24/7 is actually necessary. Are they actually generating enough revenue at like 2am on New Year’s Day to justify the cost? Unless they’re dispatching ambulances or some shit it can probably wait and that will sidestep this problem.

    1. Waffles*

      There are probably a lot of jobs that require coverage. Nursing or long-term care home was my first thought.

      1. FD*

        It’s the ‘credentialed professionals’ thing and referring to it as an office that makes me think that’s not the case.

        Like a medical facility will have people with credentials but you’re going to have to make people come in who don’t too, like cooks and housekeepers.

        1. Elves Have Left the Building*

          My first thought was maybe some sort of 24 hour technical support or something that needs to be available in all different time zones. Perhaps supporting banking or medical infrastructure or equipment… Purely spitballing, of course.

    2. FD*

      I actually wonder the same thing. I can’t imagine many credentialed professionals where you actually need 24/7 coverage. Unless they mean something like plumbing, where you have to be on call but don’t have to be in the office all the time.

      1. MassMatt*

        You can’t really imagine any such jobs?

        There are many thousands of jobs that run 24/7. The military. Police and fire. Hospitals. Public utilities. Public transportation. Elder care. Homeless shelters.

        Really people should not take for granted the work that has to go on around the clock in many sectors and assume everything comes down to whether “enough revenue is generated at 2 AM on New Year’s Day to justify the cost”. If your home catches fire on New Year’s Day at 2AM I doubt you would be understanding that no firefighters or ambulances were available because it just wasn’t worth the cost.

        1. FD*

          Sure, but if I was referring to those groups I wouldn’t call them ‘credentialed professionals’ either–since fields like emergency responders and medical will have both people with credentials and without. Nor would I refer to the place they work as an office.

          I’ve worked lots of holidays in jobs that require full coverage, plus been on call for plenty of others that don’t need a butt in a seat but do need someone to be able to take calls in an emergency.

          If you want to be didactic, I can’t think of many professions that would call all their staff credentialed professionals and the place they work an office and who genuinely need to have coverage in the office 24/7/365.

          1. MassMatt*

            Of the many fields I mentioned, the only ones I imagine you would say are NOT generally staffed by “credentialed professionals” are elder care (sadly) and homeless shelters. I would hope you don’t want your power plants, law enforcement, military, hospitals, and public transit being run by uncredentialed folks responding to a Craigslist ad, or coming to a halt on holidays.

            And anyway this is getting too hung up on the term “credentialed professionals”. Millions of people work holidays. The jobs millions of people have, whether you think they have professional credentials or not, do not exist solely Monday through Friday 9-5.

            1. ABC*

              I have a feeling that people may be getting hung up on the term “office” too. It may not literally be a big building filled with cube farms.

      2. Pippa K*

        “I can’t imagine many credentialed professionals where you actually need 24/7 coverage”

        Health care of all kinds – ERs, inpatient hospital care, nursing homes, paramedics. But also (whether ‘credentialed’ or not) jobs in policing, firefighting, the military, some intelligence jobs… When you start to think about it, it’s a pretty long list.

      3. Kip*

        It could be engineers at a power plant. Do you like getting electricity at your house at 2:00 am? Then you better hope my pal Tom’s at work then and not faffing off.

      4. Dust Bunny*

        I used to be a veterinary assistant and animal ERs obviously have to have actual veterinarians on hand, and if they want to maintain AAHA status they probably also have to have at least one RVT on the premises.

        If you don’t want to work nights, holidays, and weekends, don’t take a job somewhere that needs 24/7 coverage. Period.

    3. OrdinaryJoe*

      Yes … my guess is they are ‘dispatching ambulances or some shit” like that … keeping people alive in hospitals, running emergency vet clinics, mental health support, homeless support, law enforcement, etc. I feel pretty confident it’s not for the ROI at being open at 2am New Year’s Day :-)

    4. Michelle Smith*

      First responders, medical facilities, veterinary facilities, arraignment courts in very large cities, etc. often are open 24/7 regardless of revenue generation. I worked many, many, many holidays as a lawyer because the office didn’t close just because it was a holiday, or people would just be sitting in jail while I ate cookies and celebrated or whatever.

    5. ABC*

      This suggestion comes up on every post related to holiday coverage, and it’s really puzzling. People are truly unfamiliar with the concept of work happening on Christmas?

    6. CTT*

      I went back to the original letter and the LW said it was mental health related, so yeah, probably do need to be literally open 24/7! Taking the LW at their word, what a concept!

      1. Just so Tired*

        I’ve worked in mental health /human services my whole career. It is the norm to continue to care for people even on “the holidays” and the weekend…

    7. WFHomer Simpson*

      Do you like having electricity on holidays? Running water? Internet? Hospitals, police, fire departments, etc.? Well, then someone has to be working on the holidays.

    8. Jade*

      Hospital, urgent care, nursing facilities, utilities, truck driving, vet hospital, police, fire, correctional officer. The list goes on.

    9. Neutral Janet*

      Let’s take the letter writer at their word that being open 24/7 is necessary, whether or not there’s revenue involved. You’re obviously aware that some jobs do require being open at all times—is it impossible to imagine that OP works at one of them?

    10. virago*

      It’s a mental health service, so they need 24/7 coverage, according to a 2018 comment by the OP that updated the situation. (Hat tip to I GOTS TO KNOW! for finding it.)

    11. RussianInTexas*

      The OP posted in the original thread that it’s a mental health service.
      No, they don’t need to generate revenue, and justify the cost, very many 24/7 jobs don’t actually do that, and yes, they need to be open 24/7.

  27. Jiminy Cricket*

    I would love to see an update to this. I wonder what else has been going on in an office where so many people are willing to say rules-schmules.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Could be other problems, could be that people get really weird around the holidays.

      As a family law attorney I have to draft holiday schedules. The amount of parents who INSIST their child must be there to wake up on Christmas morning so they, the parent can see their faces, is quite high. I usually point out, their kid doesn’t care, they just want presents. If you don’t have them that year for Christmas, then you can celebrate on the day you get them for Christmas break.

      I now ask which is more important Christmas Eve or Day. That sometimes solves it.

      1. K*

        My parents are divorced, and our system was to spend Christmas Eve and morning and one house, then swap over at around noon on Christmas Day to do the whole thing again, and alternate years. It worked really well.

  28. GreyjoyGardens*

    Since these are credentialed professionals we are talking about, not easily replaced retail workers, and it’s not a 2010 employer’s market any more, I hope that the childless people or those who don’t have kids at home can band together and at least demand a hefty amount of compensation from the bosses. The parents are way out of line, and so are the bosses if the attitude is “your holiday compensation is that you get to keep your job! You should be grateful!”

    Or, nuclear option, again depending on the individual situations, the local job market, and the opportunities for credentialed professionals – just call in sick for Christmas. “Oh dear I have norovirus!” And drop the rope. This *is* the nuclear option, but again, this isn’t 2010 anymore where employers held every last one of the cards.

  29. A Simple Narwhal*

    My mom is a nurse at a hospital and as you know, hospitals have to always be open. The way it works for her is that you have to work a certain number of holidays, full stop. If you don’t work some holidays, you don’t work there anymore. If you volunteer to work a major holiday, you are guaranteed to have another major holiday off. You also get 1.5 or 2x your normal rate (it’s not variable, I just don’t know which one it is) on holidays.

    My mom always volunteers to work Thanksgiving to guarantee that she gets Christmas off, because Christmas is more important to her. She also doesn’t really care about New Years Eve/Day, so she’ll always happily take those shifts as well since it’s more money on what feels like a normal day. And as her family we always know that Thanksgiving means she’s working, and she’ll join us in the evening when she’s done with her shift.

    Holiday coverage is an unfortunate but necessary part of the deal for certain jobs. Consequences need to start happening for the people shamelessly shirking their duties, it’s deeply unfair to the people who have to cover for them.

    1. The dark months*

      To me this sounds ideal. You get thanksgiving food without having to cook, your preferred holiday off, and extra pay fo what you consider to be a normal shift!

  30. Sybil Writes*

    One solution to this issue is to hold the end-of-year holiday coverage lottery on January 2nd. You will know who worked Thanksgiving, (day after?), Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve, and New Years Day 2023. Take them out of the lottery.
    Pick coverage at the beginning of the year, which gives people time to plan accordingly. We have nurses in our family for years and they always seem to know their holiday work commitment a full year out.
    If there are people who would be willing to switch coverage, they can choose to let themselves be known. But it would be the lottery “winner’s” responsibility to line that replacement coverage up.
    You could make a policy for employees who join during the year as to whether they should plan on working any of the holidays their first year or not. (If not, they might be an automatic ‘winner’ for the following year.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      You run the risk of lottery “winners” leaving before the end of the year, if it is a high turnover field.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        When that happens, we do the same thing we do in December – ask for a volunteer to cover the holiday, and if no one volunteers then have a drawing (excluding anyone who’s on either this year’s or last year’s holiday coverage schedule). Granted, we’re not very high turnover, but we still need to do this occasionally.

      2. Ess Ess*

        In that case, the newly hired to replace them are assigned those slots. After all, they would be the lowest seniority workers to it makes sense they would be assigned to work shifts others don’t want.

    2. Umami*

      I like the idea of doing it early on. And if that’s not feasible, if someone wants/needs to book travel early in the year for the holidays, it can be contingent on them volunteering to work a holiday that doesn’t conflict. But it almost seems like if you give an inch, people will take a mile, so …

    3. Casa del sol*

      Yeah I don’t agree with this. Parents will sign up and happily promise “Next year, next year” with a big grin on their face, knowing they can quit before then, say “That wasn’t what I said last year” or come up with a plan to be “sick”

  31. Fluffy Fish*

    Honestly the lottery system sounds like it’s part of the problem. Pulling names out of the hat so to speak isn’t necessarily equitable.

    Depending on # of employees it might work better to assign a rotation. A and B you’re on tap for Thanksgiving this year but barring staffing issues you can pencil in not working the next 2 Thanksgivings.

    Also when you hire are you clearly explaining to people they will have to work holidays on rotation? People knowing its 24/7 and people understanding you specifically will work holidays is part of this job are 2 different things.

    And 3 as Alison said what can your company do to sweeten the pot? If you work a holiday you get….what? Extra leave? Extra pay? Both?

    That may make people feel differently about it.

    1. Elle Woods*

      From what I’ve seen, the rotation system seems to work well. My neighbor is a doctor. The clinic where she works has a three-year rotation system. What’s really nice for them is that they know ahead of time what holidays they’ll be on call and can plan accordingly.

      1. Elves Have Left the Building*

        I don’t know if I’ll still be working where I’m at in 3 months, let alone 3 YEARS. So, the lotter to me seems the most egalitarian method, especially since it takes the following year into account (work this Xmas, you’re automatically out of the lottery for next Xmas), etc…

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          Yes this would be an issue if it was a place with high turn over but it doesn’t seem like that’s the case here as I think OP would have mentioned it.

          Most people aren’t leaving jobs that frequently.

    2. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      Many years ago, I worked in a hospital clinical lab. We handled holidays via a rotation system. We were slightly specialized so we only needed one person in on any holiday. It generally worked out so that most people worked one holiday, with maybe one or two people working two holidays due to lapping.

      It was a bit gnarly if you worked Thanksgiving one year, because that meant you got Christmas the next year and New Year’s the year after that. But you knew that going in. All in all, it was workable and not too much of an imposition.

      But here’s the thing – my coworkers with kids were willing to work their fair share. Sounds like a lot of the LW’s coworkers were not exactly team players in that respect.

      1. Sorrischian.*

        My workplace (also a lab but much larger – our minimum staff on holidays is 10 people and that’s an absolute skeleton crew compared to normal) does a combination volunteer/rotation system that works pretty well. Each shift group is assigned holidays on a 3-year rotation, BUT if there are enough volunteers to reach minimum staff, then anybody on that shift who doesn’t want to work the day doesn’t have to. Almost every holiday we have plenty of volunteers so the rotation mostly means that it’s that shift’s leadership responsible for coordinating.
        Of course, we also get double pay and catered lunch on holidays, so I can’t entirely chalk it up to my coworkers’ work ethic and team spirit. We do all try to do our fair share, but concrete incentives help a lot.

  32. MuseumChick*

    It is 100% unfair to expect non-parents to cover all holidays. My parents are getting hold and who knows how many holidays I have left with that. That is just as important. I would be job hunting hard if my work expected me to cover holidays just because I happen to not have children.

  33. Lainey L. L-C*

    Ah, my old job that used to fight with us about being allowed to even use our sick days/vacation days, made us hoard them in case of emergencies, and then throw a fit when half the staff had X number of days to use up at the end of the year, and when is the end of the year? The holiday season!

    I also made it a point to work every single holiday so by the time Christmas came around I could point that out and get out of working it.

  34. Tom*

    It’s worth asking: how early does the reader do the lottery? I agree with Umami that having the lottery EARLY also gives people less grounds to complain and show receipts for purchased tickets. Could the lottery be July? Or even January the previous year? Though there may be a risk of people leaving the company between the lottery and the holidays…

    1. Elves Have Left the Building*

      I’d say in that case, their replacement *assuming there is one* assumes their schedule, to include their “lottery wins/losses”. Seems the most fair to me.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      A year ahead is too early. If I’m going to visit my extended family nobody else knows what their schedule will be that early and I can’t make plans. Make it in, like, September when people can still buy advance plane tickets but other people know when they’ll be available.

      1. Stipes*

        The timing matters because people like to plan their travel months in advance. Plane tickets and hotel rooms are often cheaper the earlier you buy them, for one. Holding the lottery in the summer or earlier allows people to know with plenty of warning whether they can plan on traveling.

        1. Kel*

          It doesn’t matter when people are planning their travel; the people cheating the system were going to travel no matter what.

    3. virago*

      The lottery takes place in August, according to the OP, who left a comment that updated the situation. (Hat tip to I GOTS TO KNOW! for finding it.)

      A couple of other things that OP noted:

      1. … all of our staff sign an availability agreement upon their hiring that they are aware of the possibility of working holidays and the necessity to rotate weekends.
      2. Some of the flight and hotel scheduling we’re finding out now was actually bogus – just a way to not have to be included in the lottery. 5 staffers have done this over the last three years. …
      3. We are seeing turnover already. In the short time between my submitting my question (Thanks Allison!) and today’s posting, we have had two staff members resign, citing holidays, weekends, and feeling overloaded and dumped on as reasons they quit.

  35. bamcheeks*

    It depends a lot on what is “there is a nobody to care for my child when schools and daycare are closed” and what’s “booked a flight, see ya”! In my previous job my manager told us that she thought we’d all be back in the office soon, and I said in that case I’d have to quit because I couldn’t make a full-time office-based job with a commute and childcare work in the school holidays. She dismissed me as being dramatic, then asked why my family couldn’t do more (they live in others countries or are dead or don’t want to), then told me I’d have to pay for childcare (there is no paid childcare that covers the full period of commute+ working hours), then told me I’d have to take annual leave (there isn’t enough to cover all school holidays), then warned me that I couldn’t expect to rely on annual leave during school holidays because other people might want leave there. Which is why I was telling her that I’d have to quit. And I know single-parent friends in healthcare who are unable to use their qualifications because there is no childcare available that allows them to work shifts or covers bank holidays. If you don’t have a co-parent with a more flexible schedule or another family member who is basically willing to act as a co-parent, you’re stuffed.

    So yes, you need a fairer and more logical system, and it’s not fair for people without kids to have to work all the unsociable shifts and celebrations. But there’s a bigger problem here, whcih is that it’s not always “people with kids are selfish”. Sometimes it’s people desperately trying to manage childcare responsibilities and stay in the workplace.

    1. Lainey L. L-C*

      YES. As a single mom, if I have to work on a day with no available childcare, there is NO ONE TO WATCH MY SMALL CHILD.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Then don’t take a job that requires 24/7 coverage? All of this could be avoided entirely if people who won’t or can’t work on holidays don’t take jobs that are open for important reasons on holidays.

      2. Kel*

        It doesn’t sound like that is what’s happening here. Also, that’s an accommodation, not insisting on a vacation that you were scheduled to work.

      3. KC*

        Then you need a career that allows for that. It’s not fair to your coworkers to be denied time off they earned because you can’t find reliable childcare.

    2. Stipes*

      I mean, that’s how it works, yeah: if you have a job withe requirements that clash with childcare needs, then you might have a job that can’t be filled by most people with kids. In your case, they decided to change the job into one that you couldn’t work anymore, which sucks because it sounds like they didn’t really have to.

      You need to either only hire people who can work as required, or find a way to change the requirements. What you can’t do is only hold some of your employees to those requirements, and move the fallout onto others.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I mean, the “but I booked tickets” people obviously aren’t, and if people are doing that to get around a n equitable system, management needs to pick a system and stick with it. But LW doesn’t say (and possibly doesn’t know) what was going on with the “called out at a short notice” people. We don’t know what those people were dealing with.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          “Last year I worked Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve and Day since the staff picked in the lottery all called out, leaving a huge coverage gap. ”
          All of them called out for good reasons for all holidays? All of them? That’s BS.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Probably not all of them, but you don’t know which had well-founded reasons and which didn’t, and so the assumption is that none of them did.

            My problem here is the framing “parents do this…”, not “management routinely favours parents at the expense of non-parents, whcih leads to a massively unequal burden”.

    3. RussianInTexas*

      This is neither here nor there for this situation.
      The situation here is that the people take the job with the 365 days a year 24/7 coverage. Which they know about beforehand. In fact, they are credentialed professionals, so they picked a CAREER that presumes it (in this instance, mental health). The parents here are not complaining about unavailability of child care. They are using the fact they have kids to flaunt the rules.
      This has nothing to do with childcare. And in this particular situation, yes, the people with kids are, in fact, selfish.

      1. Kel*

        Yes but this kind of thing is 100% from that perspective; my found family is not less important than anyone’s biological one. My niblings are not less important than someone else’s kids.

        In many places queer people aren’t able to adopt, or conceive easily. Cost is a huge barrier; this is heteronormative, even if non hetero people have children.

          1. Danish*

            I can kiiiiiiind of see where pen afficionado was coming from – the blatant “my extremely mainstream life experiences are more important than anyone else’s and I will not consider how my behavior negatively impacts people not like me” is a fairly heternormative outlook, but alas the harsh reality that we Others must always grapple with is that marginalized people are just as capable of being selfish jerks, and there’s nothing to indicate either way what the breakdown of parents in this office is.

            It’s heternormative to have children even if you are not is nonsense tho.

  36. Yup!*

    Man the system has it set up so that we fight each other for a piece of the pie. People without kids deserve holidays off. People with kids who work holidays spend their pay and more on babysitting IF it’s available. And miss the precious little time we have with them.

    Meanwhile the system sits above it all and alights in money.

  37. Random Bystander*

    As long as no one gets stuck with what I called the “schedule by Ebenezer Scrooge” that I got one year when I worked in relay, people should abide by what they’re scheduled for. I’d go ahead and say that any holiday requests need to be in by September 1, with approvals coming out within the next three days, so that people who do get the holiday requests are able to make their travel arrangements. At current job, if you imagine a department with 20 people, certain popular days were designated as “skeleton crew” which meant 9 people had to be present. So, there was the deadline for holiday requests, with tracking for who had requested first. Then the first eleven requests were approved. Next year, anyone who had been approved could not be numbered higher than 10 (meaning any of the 9 who worked the prior year would auto go to the head of the list), and the first 11 requests would be approved. Yes, someone might get those highly desired days two years in a row, but no one worked those highly desired days two years in a row unless by choice.

    The schedule by Ebenezer Scrooge just skirted legal requirements for time off between shifts. I was originally scheduled 3:45pm-12:15am on Christmas Eve and then 9am-5:30pm Christmas Day. Now, I am Catholic, and that schedule would have prevented me from attending *any* Christmas Mass in the city (12:15 had a risk of being stuck on a call, so you could go over; if you were lucky you were able to get off at midnight, but no guarantee–you were required to relieve any midnight person on a call if you weren’t on one yourself). Fortunately, a co-worker whose family did all their celebrating on Christmas Eve volunteered to swap her 6pm-10pm Christmas Day with my morning half shift (she was part time, I was full time), and on Christmas Eve, I was able to get off right at midnight and over to a Mass during the Gloria, so I did not miss much of it. My normal schedule was 3:30-midnight, occasional 3:45-12:15s, so I probably wouldn’t have been as upset about working both days if it hadn’t been for that 9am start. Time off there was strictly by seniority, and you had a large contingent of “lifers” (people with 10+ years on) and then the newbies (under 5 years), and pretty much only the lifers got requested holidays ever, and I was one of the “newbies”.

  38. Dumpster Fire*

    Those of us who DON’T live with kids/families actually need the time off MORE than those who do – because we often need to travel to see our families! If I saw my family (kids etc.) all the time BECAUSE I LIVED WITH THEM, I’d probably be OK with working on a day and seeing them that night. So if you live with your loved ones, consider yourself lucky and have mercy on those who don’t.

    1. pope suburban*

      I mean, you’re not wrong. My mom works in hospital laboratories, which absolutely do need to be open 24/7. We just…worked around it. She was typically on second shift anyway, so we tended to have some time during the day/morning to do Thanksgiving and Christmas stuff. But at the end of the day, our family had an easy time managing because we were under the same roof. I would hope that, where possible, folks’ extended families would be accommodating in terms of coming to where the holiday worker lives; I wouldn’t expect this every year and I know it’s not always feasible, but it is nice, when you’re an essential worker, to have family who understand that and show you some grace. But yeah, I agree, when you’re in a line of work like this, you make holidays happen and you learn what works for your family. Expecting others to go without every year so you don’t have to manage your industry standard schedule is unacceptable, and BOO HISS to the management that is allowing that here.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      We never celebrated Christmas on actual Christmas. We either celebrated early so we’d have more vacation time to play with our new stuff, and now we celebrate late so my siblings can celebrate regular Christmas with their spouses’ families. Plus it’s cheaper to board my cats on not-Christmas. But, yeah, I still need at least a day travel time at each end because none of them live in our childhood home state any more.

  39. birb*

    The lottery sounds like a good system, but people who cheated last year should be expected to work this year and people who have never been allowed to have the prime days should be prioritized. If someone who regularly cheats to get the good days lucks out in the lottery there’s gonna be some reasonable bad blood.

    1. Stipes*

      One tweak to the system that might help, depending on how many people are on staff and how many need to be working at any one time: If you work a holiday, you’re immune from that holiday’s lottery until everyone else on staff has done so. Adds some extra incentive to work Christmas when you can, to give yourself peace of mind for the next couple.

    2. Helen Waite*

      The lottery should be weighted to favor the people who have been stuck with holiday shifts and make it more likely that the ones who used the “But I bought non-refundable tickets” excuse without it actually being true would be assigned the less desirable shifts. It wouldn’t be that hard to weight a random number generator.

      The comment from the original poster on the original thread makes this necessary if you don’t want to drive away the non-parents. Then who is going to take on the holiday work they’re all trying to weasel out of?

      Looking back at the original post, it also seems that the parents are looking to skate out of working weekends, since they’ve been successful at sticking the holidays with the non-parents.

      I really want an update to this one.

  40. Lizzo*

    Sigh. This unequal treatment goes beyond the workplace. A significant number of my friends group (self included) do not have children, but their siblings do. The constant expectation that my childless friends accommodate the family unit with children when it comes to holiday travel (i.e. the childless friend ALWAYS travels, because “it’s [supposedly] easier”), sleeping arrangements, family vacations, etc. is getting tiresome….and expensive!

    Similarly, I have been married to my partner for close to two decades with no children. My brother-in-law married recently and he and his partner now have a small child. It was very clear from my partner’s parents’ treatment of BIL’s family that they thought his family unit was a legitimate family because they have a child. There was also some favoritism towards the new wife because she gave them a grandchild, whereas I have failed in that department. All of this was subtle, but it was there. It bothered me, but it took me a couple years to identify it and say it out loud.

    A small digression, OP, and I think Alison’s suggestions are a great way to address this, but be aware that there is a whole lot of cultural expectation and family dynamics happening outside the workplace that may make this more complicated to resolve, especially if people can’t put words to their feelings.

    1. Dog momma*

      Yes, I traveled much as possible, even if I worked my shift that da we all went to the parents. But it was never enough, sigh. Bro & wife didn’t work; sis was SAHM & her husband took 2 weeks off for the holidays. Mom always said I didn’t stay long enough

  41. Filicophyta*

    I know others have said it, but the lottery needs to be EARLY.

    Some people may even want to go to a June graduation or wedding, or have non-Christmas holidays off and choose to work “the holidays” lottery. An early lottery would make this easier.

      1. Filicophyta*

        If there is a system and there are people, there will be people who try to cheat they system.

        However, if the lottery were early, people could not say “Well I bought my tickets in August to save money, I didn’t know I would be working.” Yes, you did know. You knew in April. It’s your turn.
        It would remove one excuse that people use, although of course, no-shows and call-outs could still happen.

        1. Bast*

          I agree. It’s stressful to coordinate things last minute and not know whether or not you’ll have a holiday off until a few weeks before. There will always be people who buck the system, but I’m willing to bet there’s a good deal of people who figure what the heck, it’s a 50/50 and buy the tickets on Black Friday because it’s too good of a deal to pass up. If I knew in advance I’d be working Christmas day, I could always plan to do something big on Christmas Eve, day after, etc., vs. constantly telling my family “I don’t know.” August is plenty of fair warning and gives time to make alternative plans.

        2. Kel*

          It seems like the lottery is in August, so people are just buying tickets after and then using that as a reason.

          1. linger*

            Per OP’s comments in the original thread (I’ve pasted it in upthread for easier reference) some people were lying about buying tickets.

  42. Mockingjay*

    I remember this letter and commenting on it. There were actually two issues: refusal of parents to cover holidays, and what a closer look revealed to be understaffing: “We’re usually run ragged after working low-staffed weekend shifts, which are also shifts the parent staffers are starting to grumble about.”

    I always wondered if OP fixed things; there were a lot of suggestions about a mandated rotation, not a lottery so everyone had to work a holiday and weekend, regardless.

    1. burn out*

      Good point. I was thinking about this with my own circumstances, too. Part of why holiday coverage (and spring break) is so terrible is because they are also a busy times of year, and when half the staff goes on holiday or spring break, the rest suffer. And because the childless people usually work, we’re the ones getting burned out.

  43. ZSD*

    It’s also weird to me that the parents are using their parenthood to excuse needing to *fly and get hotels.* If the excuse for not working is that they’re parents, then I would expect their *kids* to be the ones buying flights to visit *them.* Isn’t that the cultural norm? The fact that they’re buying flights makes me think that these employees are traveling to visit *their parents*, in which case, the excuse isn’t really that they’re parents, but that they’re someone’s *child.* Which would of course be equally true of many of the child-free employees.

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      It’s likely the flights are for taking their kids to visit grandparents and extended family

    2. Gemstones*

      People do fly to visit their adult kids, but I’m assuming these parents are traveling with their kids to visit other family.

    3. Elves Have Left the Building*

      Well presumably it’s because they are taking THEIR kids to see their parents, aka: Grandparents. Y’know, making memories and all that rot.

  44. spcepickle*

    This is why you need a diverse office! I don’t celebrate Christmas, I would be really glad to work Christmas and take my time off for a Feb vacation.
    However as a childless person if I was constantly called in at the last moment to cover people who just chose not to come in I would be looking for another job.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      No, this is why they need to set fair policies and then enforce them.

      (I mean, they need diverse workplaces, anyway, but not so they can stick non-Christmas-celebrators with holiday shifts.)

    2. Batman*

      This was also my thought: is there no one who would volunteer to cover at least some of those holidays? I know I couldn’t care less about working Christmas, especially if it were financially incentivized (as Alison suggested in her answer) or I could get a guarantee that I wouldn’t have to work one of my own religious holidays. But if there’s no one in the entire department who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, I have bigger questions about company culture.

  45. Celeste*

    This wouldn’t work for the people who want to go out of town, but I wonder if splitting the holidays into mornings and afternoons would help.

    Some people might be okay with being home for Christmas morning but then working in the afternoon, and other people might be okay working early in the day as long as they make it home for dinner. I don’t know, just a thought.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      No, they’ll just tell themsleves that calling in a half-day is even less of a transgression than calling in a whole day.

  46. NotARealManager*

    The lottery seems fine, but I recommend the drawing happens by August 1st. Family start asking us about holiday plans in the summer and we usually have arrangements made before September. Then there needs to be a policy that (barring emergency or illness) you have to show up to work over your holiday shift. Not doing so is grounds for dismissal. It would get trickier for folks with a hire date after 8/1, but I’d probably evaluate what to do on a case-by-case basis with those people.

    1. anon_s*

      Yeah, this is the only way that makes sense to me. Do it at the beginning of summer and maybe people will have less problems (and not book flights). If something comes up, then you’re short staffed but maybe not as much as you would be now when people just don’t seem to care about the system.

      As a side note, can’t really stand people who know the name of the game and still think they’re above the rules. :\ I wouldn’t work in an industry that was on 24/7 if I couldn’t handle it. The ‘have your cake and eat it, too’ crowd is the bane of my existence. No one is more special than another!

    2. virago*

      The lottery does take place in August, according to the OP, who left a comment updating the situation. (Thanks to I GOTS TO KNOW! for finding it.)

  47. Hiring Mgr*

    I think you really need to talk to the two bosses or whoever is above them and get them to see the issue as seriously as you do.

    None of the other details matter if your managers keep overriding the rules.

  48. Jenna Webster*

    Management are the only people who can fix this, and if they can’t see how messed up this is, there may be no hope. There are plenty of companies who have and enforce a similar policy. People here where I work know a year ahead of time if they need to factor this in, because if you get Christmas off one year, you don’t get it off the next year.

  49. Coco*

    (One of) my jobs requires coverage on the most commonly recognized holidays. This is well known in the retail industry and everyone is aware of this upon hire. We have a very diverse team, and many are members of a religion that does not celebrate Christmas. They are usually asked in advance if they would be willing to work Dec 25th, (with extra pay). They nearly always say yes. And the team makes sure they can take time off for any other religious holidays that they do celebrate. I am more than happy to work on Eid al-Fitr, so my Muslim coworkers can be with their families!

    1. I Have RBF*

      I’ve worked for years at places that required on-call coverage at all times, including for all holidays. I regularly swapped on-call with my more devout coworkers of various religions. We would hammer out the 4th quarter schedule before the end of 3rd quarter so that people could plan.

  50. Name Anxiety*

    My mom worked grocery my entire childhood, and I started working there too when I was old enough. We were told when we were hired that NO ONE was allowed to request time off for the two weeks surrounding Christmas/New Years and the week before Thanksgiving, and it was generally frowned upon to regularly request other holidays like the 4th, Memorial Day weekend, etc. just because we were so busy. The store was always closed Christmas day, Thanksgiving day and Easter Sunday anyway. If you requested them off, you’d almost always get scheduled for those days. Our personnel manager really tried hard to make sure that it wasn’t always the same people working unless they wanted to be there (lots of us did! I loved the extra pay. Thanks to my union!).

    1. Bast*

      I worked retail for a few years, and there were “blackout” dates that no one was allowed to request off and other We were only closed Easter and Christmas (Thanksgiving being turned into “Pre-Black Friday” with the store opening at 6 PM one year). Surprisingly, there was more grumbling about the Superbowl than any actual holiday. Sure, there was some moaning about working Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve (although it came with the territory) but the Superbowl? Half the store would request it off and only a limited number of requests were granted.

  51. Filicophyta*

    Or do the lottery Hunger Games style. You want more whiteboard pens? A desk lamp? Your name goes in the lottery twice.

  52. Ellis Bell*

    New Years Eve is hardly well known as a children’s holiday!! I doubt that the people with kids are really all that unavailable for that involves children either. I think the real issue is the fact that it’s a lottery, and the fact that the draw happens late. Lots of people prefer notice when it comes to holiday plans; you’re just seeing more intensity amongst those with kids because if those people fail to plan ahead it’s even more messy. I’m sure childfree people would equally like notice and fairness; they just happen to complain less. I would make it more of a fair, turn taking system (regardless of family status) as opposed to random chance, taking preferences into account where possible (everyone chooses two days they’re definitely happy to work every year, and a least favorite day where you alternate working it. If everyone wants the same day, the first year is a lottery and those drawn won’t work it for the next few years until it’s their turn again). I know fairness and turn taking has been attempted by removing people from the second lottery draw in the same year, but this could mean you work your favorite holiday every year for a stretch if you’re unlucky in the draw, and you might not care about working the other two holidays. My feeling is the parents rebelled because of the uncertainty over a key day, and because it worked, they have just stayed off on the other days too. Shouldn’t be allowed of course, and they should have raised it professionally.

  53. anon_s*

    The lottery system was fine – no one (usually) wants to work holidays.

    This whole office has a culture problem, to be frank. Someone needs to shape up above LW and just enforce this system they have in place. Do these people have children or are they children? Geez.

    1. Danish*

      “Do these people have children or are they children”

      TRULY. The self-centeredness of “well it’s not fair to anyone AND I said I would be there but I know 100% I am going to ditch” is how I’d expect a not-terribly-responsible pre-teen to act.

  54. Rebecca*

    My mom was hospital nurse; they did a rotating system for holidays. And then people would trade amongst themselves if they had specific dates that they really wanted or needed off; it seemed like a really fair system. And sometimes we’d do Christmas early; us kids never minded opening gifts on the 23rd!

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      One year, when I was in grad school, the cheapest ticket to fly home was on the evening of Dec 25th. So we just pretended that Christmas was the next day and everything was fine.

  55. Dodubln*

    My husband and I are childless by choice, don’t celebrate Christmas, and don’t go to church. So he has always been willing to work any holidays/Sunday’s at his job. They do give Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day off to everyone, but keep regular hours the rest of the year, including Easter. For the 16 years he has worked at this job, he has worked every Sunday(including Easter), and Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. About a year or so ago, his company announced that anyone who was scheduled for a Sunday would now be getting paid $10 an hour more on top of their normal hourly wage, for the entire shift.
    It was AMAZING how many employees who could never work Sunday’s before because they had kids, or they went to church, or whatever reason they had, could suddenly work on Sunday’s, LOL. His manager made it clear that employees who had previously been willing to work Sunday’s would always be given priority in being scheduled for a Sunday shift.
    You can imagine the reaction from the employees who suddenly wanted those Sunday shifts, but couldn’t get one, unless an employee who had always worked them was willing to switch a shift. Which was no one.

    1. I Have RBF*


      This is awesome, as in “Gee, there are consequences for previous unwillingness to work Sundays!”

  56. WorkingRachel*

    Growing up, my parents were both ministers. You know who really, really doesn’t get Christmas off? People who work in churches. At the time Christmas Day tended to be more of a church time than Christmas Eve, so we’d often do presents and such either late on Christmas Eve after the last service or very early Christmas Day. It was completely fine! We did all the “typical” Christmas stuff, just before or after the day itself (it helps that my parents were pretty into Advent as an observance and Christmas starting on Dec. 25 and ending on Epiphany). (Ok, and tbf Christmas Day services are usually over by noon or so.)

  57. MissPeskyFace*

    Had the same thing happen to me when I worked master control at a tv station. We ran a lean team and priority was always given to those with kids around the holidays.

  58. SkiGirl*

    Scrap the program that nobody is adhering to, and incentive the hell out of working holidays. I worked for a 24/7 business and had to deal with the parents cutting out for little Jonny’s soccer games, or susie’s recital, etc.

    But Holidays were the worst. So my company started offering double pay for the big ones. The parents still complained, but didn’t want to work those days. Tough.

    So I- non-Xtian, and not really a celebrator of anything, made bank.

  59. Sara without an H*

    About 90% of the time, as the associate director, what I say goes. But there are two more managers above my head who the parent staffers frequently use to override me on this issue. I get the same joking tones from my bosses — “Oh, don’t be heartless, they have kids!”

    This is a management problem. Somebody on staff figured out that they could manipulate the senior managers into overriding the quite workable lottery system, and word has spread. Now LW is stuck with massive insubordination AND a growing morale problem.

    What I would probably do is sit down with the senior managers, preferably a few months before the holidays. (This is important.) I would describe the situation, tell them that the current system is causing a lot of hurt feelings and resentment, and ask them how they would like me to schedule holiday coverage in the future. So far as possible, I’d make them come up with solutions.

    (Oh, and btw — I wonder how often these two senior managers themselves worked the holidays?)

    I know this is an archival letter — LW, if you’re out there, would you send us an update?

  60. StarTrek Nutcase*

    This parent privilege doesn’t just affect holidays. I worked at a 24/7 severely disabled residential facility (400 residents), with federally mandated coverage numbers. And holidays, weather (hurricanes), and family events were all problematic. Parents were always given preference & extra consideration (Not coincidentally only 2 out of dozens of supervisors through department heads were not parents.) Due largely to limited employee pool, firings were only done for really egregious acts (assaults, felony level thefts).

    So call outs were excessive especially during Txsgiving & Xmas and hurricanes. As a child-free single, I got much satisfaction from watching management of all levels being forced to cover call outs. But I also lacked any respect for parent coworkers who abused the system. It definitely was a morale & retention problem for child-free employees.

  61. ProducerNYC*

    I spent a decade in news being told that I had to work the holidays because I ‘didn’t have a family.’ Excuse me? As I like to say, I didn’t spring from Zeus’ forehead. I had/have friends, fAmILy, nieces, nephews, etc and MY time was just as precious. What they meant was I was single (and later, when married, had no kids). Later I worked in broadcast and the workers w/no kids were constantly filling in for working parents (not the parents’ fault, clearly lazy mgmt). There were times when the managers could have easily taken up the slack but instead put it on us no-kids workers, who had to cancel plans, skip dinners, etc. I wish I had the boldness then that I have now. SO frustrating, and makes me extra grateful to be in a more balanced part of that field.

  62. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    As a child-free person, that situation would really tick me off. Particularly as someone who is single and lives 4,000km away from my family members. Getting or not getting vacation is the difference between seeing my loved ones and spending a holiday alone. (Though we’re also flexible about the exact dates we celebrate things and our office is closed on statutory holidays).

    I’ve been fortunate to be able to get a week off around Christmas pretty consistently, though that’s the only holiday I ask for off, and I make sure to ask super early. During the pandemic (which is ongoing), I didn’t travel, so I made it clear that I was fine to work through the holidays, just to even things out.

    All this is to say that there should be a process to figure out vacations that is fair for people, those with kids and those without.

  63. SometimesCharlotte*

    In 15-20 years, those parents of small children will be parents of working adults who may not have children (yet or ever) and they’ll still want to spend the holidays with those children. But following the rules they seem to want to have now, those children will have to work to cover for their colleagues with children and they won’t see the delicious karma in that.

    Which as I’m typing this I’m struck with a realization – these people have tickets to visit their children? So we aren’t talking about having young children? So we’re talking about people who have adult children – like their CF co-workers are also adult children?

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I assumed it might be like taking their small children to see extended family, or on a vacation. When I was a young teen, we took a family trip with my grandparents, uncle, aunt, and 2 cousins to somewhere warm and delightful for Christmas.

      1. virago*

        In a comment providing more information, OP said that “some of the flight and hotel scheduling we’re finding out now was actually bogus – just a way to not have to be included in the lottery. 5 staffers have done this over the last three years. My admin’s eyes are open now, for sure.”

        Sigh. Some people will do anything to get out of their responsibilities.

        (Thanks to I GOTS TO KNOW! for finding the comment.)

        1. Shandra*

          On a similar note, the Washington Post ran an article last July about processing delays at the US Passport Agency.

          A reader commented online that someone they knew presented bogus travel arrangements, to push his expedited renewal to the front of the line. His actual trip which was coming up soon, required a visa which of course had to be stamped in his passport.

    2. jane's nemesis*

      I don’t disagree with you, but those hotels & tickets that have been booked might have been traveling with small children to destinations for the holidays, such as taking kids to Disney over this Christmas break they expect they are entitled to.

    3. Elves Have Left the Building*

      My take was they were taking their children to visit extended family for the holidays aka to see Gramma and Grampa and the Aunties and Uncles and cousins.

  64. boof*

    Mostly this sounds like really lazy management causing uneven enforcement.
    I’m pretty sure this letter was pre-pandemic, because I’ll say before I was a parent I don’t think I appreciated the sheer exhaustion/any port in a storm things could get to sometimes – and during the pandemic many parents really had no choice but to be off when their kids were off as many other childcare arrangements fell through.
    I like spending time with my kids and holidays can be a fun time to do it but I don’t mind shifting the dates of celebrations/dates, unless the problem is lack of childcare on specific dates. So I’m not sure why some parents are apparently saying it’s unfair because they “have plans”, that’s not an excuse. I’d feel a little differently if they said they just had no other options because childcare was either unavailable or prohibitively expensive those days (in which case, better start paying more for breaks and auctioning off working those days maybe – my healthcare system used to do that, offer increasing amounts of money as it got closer to a deadline of needing a coverage slot filled)

  65. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    I say something to this effect every time this comes up — this is another case where diversity can help (not saying it’s a guarantee, just that diversity CAN help). Most years, I’d GLADLY take the whole of December if I could just get Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur off! I say “most years” because schools (even Jewish ones) are often closed the same weeks as the public schools around Christmas/New Years, because of their own need to retain staff.

    That said, I would be SUPER enthused if I also got extra PTO or pay. Just so long as the pay was not in the form of a Christmas ham or something. :)

    1. LisaD*

      I was typing pretty much the same thing. If you can’t find ANYBODY in the office who will voluntarily trade working Christmas for some extra pay + a guaranteed day off on one of the holidays they do observe, your office is too homogenous.

    2. Sunflower*

      It’s not just Christmas though. I’ve been asked to work Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, etc. because I’m not married or have children. They just assume I have no life. And even for people who usually stay home alone, it doesn’t mean they want to work every single federal holiday or forced overtime when parents are excused from all that.

      Yes, there are people who love to work holidays and earn extra money doing overtime and that’s great, but employers need to make it fair to those who don’t.

      1. Danish*

        Lol clearly single people deserve NYE and July 4th more than parents – those are the GET DRUNK AND PARTAAAAY holidays, no parent needs those ;)

        1. Chirpy*

          As a single person who does consistently get New Year’s and 4th of July off, but not other holidays, I’d honestly rather work those and get better holidays off. I’m not a party person, and there’s no point in traveling to see my parents for those. And fireworks/ parties for those are at night, I could work normal hours and still celebrate. I just end up sitting at home.

  66. Bast*

    If it is made clear during the hiring process that holiday coverage is expected, and that you should, in fact, be prepared to work holidays as you most certainly will NOT get them all off, those unwilling to pull their weight need to be let go. I think it’s a dirty thing to add in if it is done post-hiring in an industry that does not typically work on holidays, but that does not seem to be the case here. As a parent myself who currently works in an industry where we receive all federal holidays off, I purposefully chose a field that I knew did not expect holidays and nights/weekends after working in a field that did and getting real tired of it. After working retail for a few years, I’d learned there was very little you could do but cross your fingers that you wouldn’t get a holiday shift (or that if you did, it would be a good one– if forced to choose I’d take Thanksgiving morning over night so it doesn’t ruin the dinner) — but sometimes you just pulled a short straw and had to suck it up and go in anyway. Very few people wanted to trade those days, as the people who volunteered were typically already on the schedule. It was part of the job and I knew it when I signed up.

    The lottery system you have in place is more than fair. They were made aware of it when they signed on. If they want to fuss and fight about it, they need to go. Management needs to be very firm in their approach. I do agree with an earlier commenter that individuals should know what holidays they are/aren’t working far enough in advance to make plans, so at least a few months warning.

  67. DCLimey*

    This kind of nonsense is why, as far as my job is concerned, I have 3 kids of varying ages. This tactic has worked just fine for about a decade now. #protips

  68. This Is Fine*

    Oof, the flashbacks I’m getting from this discussion. I work in a research library on a university campus and run a public facing desk with student employees. Ours is not a 24/7/365 operation, so Christmas and New Year’s Eves and Days are always holidays. The non-holidays in that year-end stretch are the problem. When we’re open, I’m almost always covering my desk solo because the students are on break and mostly out of town. Anyone in my agency who isn’t required to be on site takes that whole time off. So it’s not a parent vs nonparent situation, but one where I’m the only “grownup” (permanent employee) in my department.

    Once the pandemic kicked in, my library began to close on the days between Christmas and New Year’s, and while I’d rather have not had a pandemic, it has been a substantial silver lining to actually have a legit Christmas vacation.

    2024 won’t be tidy because the Eves/Days fall on Tuesday/Wednesday then, so I’m hoping there will be a way to close extra during the period, but I’m mentally preparing for being solo again.

  69. La Triviata*

    I think it’s all but impossible to work out something that will not upset someone. At a previous job, people with children were given privileges such as being allowed to leave early on a regular basis to pick up their children, attend games, etc. It was annoying, but not too bad, since it was an office with Monday-Friday eight hour days.

    But there were people who would assume that they could have the not-major holiday off if they wanted; one year, management decreed that people could have one holiday off (think Columbus Day/Veterans Day) but if they wanted the other off, they’d have to use some of the precious leave time. A lot of people didn’t read the note from management and, having signed up to take one of them off, were outraged that they were being required to work the other, or use leave time. The experiment was not repeated.

  70. The Wizard Rincewind*

    I don’t have any advice but my spouse is in a job where working Thanksgiving or Christmas (not both) is a given. Do we miss our families? Yes! It isn’t quite the same to give presents/have a fancy meal a day earlier or later and chat with our relatives on the phone instead of seeing them in person! But we knew that was a factor when he signed up and thankfully, none of his coworkers are as breathtakingly selfish as OP’s.

    My mom, by the way, did NOT take it well initially. “But your siblings will be here!” Yeah, it sucks that we’ll miss it! But it’s not negotiable!

    Clearly this struck a nerve and I needed to vent. I hope OP found a solution that didn’t result in outright mutiny.

  71. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    Unless your company is in a time warp and has gone back to 1853 when Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener was able to evade all unwanted tasks by saying that he would prefer not to do them, this is more than insubordination. Refusing to come to work when you’re scheduled to do so and when you do NOT have permission to be out is generally known as job abandonment. And job abandonment is generally known as a reason for instant termination!

    LW, if you can’t get the higher-ups in your company to back you up on this, there may not be much that you can do. But if you CAN get them on board, next year send around a notice stating that taking unauthorized time off is job abandonment AND will result in immediate termination; require everyone to sign a statement acknowledging that they’ve read it, understand it and accept it. And then follow through on this; distribute time off fairly and do not let parents bully or manipulate non-parents into shouldering their share of the holiday season work. You may have to fire one or two people if they decide to call your bluff, but doing so will send the clear message that yes, you mean it and no, you’re not bluffing!

    Full disclosure: I too worked in a field in which 24/7 coverage was necessary and there hasn’t been one single holiday – Christmas, Easter, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, among others – which I haven’t worked. It’s possible to work on a holiday, bring as much joy as possible to the lives of those being served and helped on those holidays, and have your own celebration later. In fact, it’s part of what going into such a field entails, and, LW, your employees should grasp this.

    1. Coin Purse*

      I’m an RN and worked a ton of holidays in my clinical career. It would have been nice to have had some spine in our management sphere re: the sick calls on holidays. I often ended up covering for 1-2 other RNs on holidays not to mention getting forced for a double shift.

      It was always the same people, upset about the schedule who would leak out and their excuse was their kids.

  72. Coin Purse*

    I retired from my last job where I was yoked to a permanent buddy. I spent 15 years having to cover her desk because 1. Kids 2. Grandkids 3. Various deaths. Always at premium holiday times. Also all of her various surgeries, also premium holiday times. It was aggregiously wrong but I could not get anyone in management to address it. All these were last minute throw downs requiring emergency coverage. By me.

    So after I retired, I started getting calls from the remaining staff about how to handle this. It was if I had been holding up the sky be myself for this colleague. I just told them good luck, glad it’s not me.

  73. Danish*

    If these people’s children are still young enough to care *deeply* about Christmas/Day then they are young enough to be convinced that moving the holiday to accommodate mommy or daddy’s work is awesome. Every single kid I have ever known – including myself when I was one – would be psyched as hell if we for example did xmas a night earlier. If the young kids are pitching a fit (doubtful) about But Christmas Day it’s because the parents have trained them into it.

    If they are NOT young children then even more into the “suck it up and celebrate earlier/later no one is going to die” column.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      In Germany, I think presents are traditionally given on Christmas Eve, in the evening, not on the 25th

    2. Chirpy*

      My family at one point celebrated Christmas with one set of grandparents on Thanksgiving weekend, because it was the best time to see them. I was absolutely stoked to get *a whole extra Christmas a month early* as a small child.

  74. Susannah*

    I worked at a newspaper that bragged about being “family-friendly” (won’t name it, but major metropolitan paper in NE Patriots fan territory). That meant single people worked nights and weekends. One of the reasons I left.
    At any rate, it is illegal in DC to discriminate based on family status or family responsibilities. I imagine that was done to protect people who have children or are caring for ailing/elderly parents… but it goes both ways.
    Yeah, next year I’d make it clear that this is the system, come up with a better one if you can and we’ll consider it. But anyone who just ignores it on the presumption nothing bad will happen… gets fired.

  75. Yzziefrog*

    This is a All-Year-Long problem. I’m a childfree middle-aged woman and there has always been this expectation that I should always be available to cover for my colleagues when they need to leave early or take time off because the kids are sick or the kids have a dentist appointment or the kids are playing a lobster in the school concert. Overtime? The inventory on a Saturday where *everyone* is supposed to come and count? Not the moms because they have to pick-up the kids or it’s the kids’ hockey tournament, etc. Because of course it was always the moms, which is another kettle of fish entirely. I understand and support companies’ efforts to create family-friendly work conditions because it’s a huge barrier-removal move for women in the workplace. But companies are too cheap to hire extra to account for coverage, it’s easier to just push it on the salaried employees and ask them to be “team players”

    1. Emily*

      I would never actually do this, but the next time someone tries to pull the “team player” nonsense on me, I would *love* to respond, “Oh I am a team player. I’m on a team of one with myself.” Or, “Since you are expecting me to do 50% of co-worker’s work in addition to my own, I am going to need 50% of co-worker’s salary in addition to my own.”

  76. Janie*

    In the olden days when I was single and worked shift work, I only got the holiday off, if it was my scheduled day off. When I went to work for the county, I made sure to be one of the first to have the vacation time approved for the few days between Christmas and New Year’s. After my son went in the service I would work the few days between Christmas and New Year’s if he wasn’t coming home. I had a couple of supervisors that were absolute turds about approving time off. One actually got into the office early before I left for a remote office to ask me if I still wanted the 3 days off before Thanksgiving. Someone else had asked for it (I knew she would), and she couldn’t give it to her if I still wanted it. Since was going to retire in May of the following year, I gave up the time and let them pay me for it when I retired.

  77. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

    Single, no kids and Jewish. I worked every holiday and received 3x pay and an extra day of PTO for each holiday worked. I was home in time for turkey scraps and cold mashed potatoes, but my family was cool with it and so was I.

    I moved on to teaching and never worked another holiday.

  78. Chirpy*

    Ugh, I hate this kind of thing. If you don’t nip it in the bud, it becomes a *daily* thing – I once had a job where all the parents declared they all needed “flex time” and left me alone in the office nearly every day. I was never once allowed flex time (nor did they care when I told them I felt unsafe alone in the office.)

    And, as the single, childless one, I’m actually the one who most needs time to travel for holidays, as I’m the one expected to go to where the rest of the family is. My coworkers with kids all celebrate holidays in town.

    As a kid, one set of grandparents lived over 1000 miles away, and didn’t want to travel in the snow, so they came for Thanksgiving and we had “Christmas” with them on that Saturday instead. I remember it as a really special “bonus Christmas” – we decorated a potted houseplant and everything. It only made it more special that it was a month early, because wasn’t the date but the celebration that makes it Christmas.

    1. Dog momma*

      same her. we were supposed to cover the phones ( health care) til 5pm daily. My boss and I were always there but if I had a Dr appt it was not a problem. When she retired, the new co worker decided she had to leave half an hr early every day bc kid had to be picked up and there were after school activities. Every. Single Day. including summers. So I had to cover up he phone line and couldn’t even make a Dr appt
      ( had to try to get 2 in 1 day and take that day off as vaca.
      Dogpapa was a teacher before retirement and drove A school bus afterwards. He said BS. Nothing scheduled absolutely every day. But she got away with it.

  79. Tiger Snake*

    Personally I don’t think the lotto system works either – because it means you can still be the name drawn from the lotto multiple years in a row. There needs to be a function that remembers who had holiday duties last year and gives that person a chance to choose to remove themselves from the drawn the next year entirely.

    Let’s just say as the child-free person in the office, I’m acutely aware of how my coworkers are lovely people who still leave me exclusively with the short stick more frequently than the reverse, for reasons that may not be their fault but are still definitely because they all have kids. Entitled expectations and demands on top of it is what turns us from “No, it’s cool” to “Hm perhaps in some circumstances filicide is on the table”

    1. L Zzboza*

      Indeed. There should be a fixed, and predictable, rotation. If you work Thanksgiving, you know you will be off on Christmas or vice versa. And if you are scheduled off for both, you’ll end up working July 4th and something else or something.

      Any rational person with five or ten minutes could probably create a simple and automatic plan that lets people predict their schedules months or even years in advance.

        1. Tired RN*

          My work has 3 holiday groups so you work Thanksgiving/Black Friday, Christmas Eve/Day, or New Years Eve/Day. The next year the whole group switches to the next holiday.

  80. Feathers*

    Obviously the main issue here is people not abiding by and management not enforcing the policies that have been set, but I’d argue that the lottery system in and of itself is possibly contributing to the problem.

    Like it may be random but it’s not necessarily fair? Some people will always be luckier than others. And so if you have a case where someone doesn’t get the day off this year but also knows they may not get it next year either, I think it encourages people to be cavalier and say ‘to hell with it’. It also makes it much harder to facilitate people swapping or volunteering to work because the day off becomes such a scare resource and you don’t know when you’ll next have the opportunity.

    I think a system that schedules everyone fairly would be better, where you work it one year but know you’ll be off next year etc. It enables people to plan years in advance if necessary, and it would at least stop people being resentful that their colleagues ‘won’ something they wanted.

  81. workworkwork*

    Do people need to physically be doing their regular jobs for a full shift on a holiday, or is this an “on call” situation where people may get called to respond to a need?
    Do people who work holidays get premium pay or accrue additional leave?
    Are there other similar agencies doing similar work that could cooperate on having coverage for holidays?

    I am asking because as a former small business owner, I know that it’s easy to say “fire people who don’t follow your system” but it’s much harder to do in reality, especially if your business requires specialized skills or certifications. It can be very hard to replace skilled workers.

    I wish you well. This is a tough one.

  82. ypsi66*

    I would be balistic if I were forced to work on holiday because of people with kids.
    My department actually also has to work on every holiday but we have a sheet where you sign up if you volunteer to cover a specific holiday. Technically, each person is supposed to cover 3 holidays a year but it is not enforced as long there is coverage.
    We used to get either money or 2 days off for each day covering an official holiday but company got greedy and now we get 1.5 days only. I still work pretty much every single holiday because I prefer to have a day off when it works for me rather than when the calendar dictates it. But that is just me, and I would be VERY grumpy and VERY vocal if I had to work while people with kids tried to take advantage of the situation. IMHO, the rules are known ahead of time and who cares if people booked a resort/purchase airfare etc. If they lose the money because of their irresponsible behaviour, it will make them think twice before doing it again.

  83. monogodo*

    When I was in my mid-20s & single-ish, I worked for a quick printing company that was open 24/7, but that closed on the Major Holidays (Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day). Then one year Corporate decided that we’d be open on those days, too, and sprung it on us a couple weeks before Labor Day. People lost their shit. There was enough of an uproar in our area that two executives from the Corporate Office in California made a special trip to our area (Dallas) to have multiple Town Hall meetings with us. They explained their reasoning, and reiterated that those who worked on Holidays would be paid at their OT rate for those hours, regardless of how many hours they’d worked that week, and they’d get their 8 hours of Holiday pay on top of it. So a full shift would be paid at 2.5 times the hourly rate. I immediately turned to my managers in the row behind me and told them I’d work Thanksgiving and Christmas if I got New Year’s off. They agreed.

    I also agreed to switch the shift I worked. My standard shift was 4pm-midnight. The 8am-4pm staff didn’t want to work it, but we got coverage from other locations. We still needed someone from our location during those hours, so they asked if I’d do it. Since my girlfriend’s family tended to have the Holiday Meal in the evening, I agreed. I got to work an 8 hour shift at 2.5x my hourly rate, AND enjoy the holiday with “family.” And the work load was pretty much non-existent those days, so it was a lot of sitting around doing nothing (pre-internet days).

    All that to say, I think offering incentives to work the days is the best way to go. You’ll have staff members (like me) who are willing to work all/most of the holidays. And maybe some staff with kids will want to work it for the extra pay (or whatever the incentive happens to be).

    Barring that, having a required rotation would be a possible solution, too. I had a job at a music retailer that told us that we could have Thanksgiving Day off, or Christmas Day off, but not both. Setting something up like that might also work.

  84. Dog momma*

    RN here, every other weekend, every other holiday. Manager keeps track. No lottery needed. If you call in on your holiday, no holiday pay & you get written up.

    if you’re single and childless, you probably aren’t an orphan, you still have family you want to celebrate with. Which is what I had to tell a co worker when she said I should work EVERY holiday.
    and ran into problems at another job with another co worker, bc… KIDS, ya know. My sister is like that too.
    Makes me happy I have dogs. lol

  85. Mmm.*

    Think is this penalizes people who *can’t* have kids, and that could open them up to trouble. Post-menopausal or trans women can’t physically bear children. People with infertility can’t produce bio kids. Same sex couples have an incredibly hard time adopting, and surrogacy is expensive and also not necessarily easy. I have a feeling one of them will end up pretty ticked off at “have a heart! *They* have kids!” with an implied “and you can’t” on there.

    I’m childfree. This pisses me off for myself, too. But I’m not the one who could burn the place down because I’m in no way a protected class. They may have a case if they get a good lawyer.

  86. Tired RN*

    I’m a nurse so we are open 24/7. My current hospital has one of the fairest holiday setups I have experienced. When hired you are assigned group 1, group 2, or group 3. One year you work memorial day, Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The next year you work 4th of July and Christmas Eve/Day, and then the third year you work Labor day and New Years Eve/day.
    If you don’t want that holiday find a swap. If you call out you work the next holiday.

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