Although Americans have lost the notion altogether, British tradition still remembers that Christmas is a season that begins, rather than ends, on December 25. In addition to Christmas, many businesses close their doors on December 26 in observance of Boxing Day. Over the years, the holiday has also become the UK’s third-largest shopping day, generating £3.74 billion last year.
Since shoppers need workers to serve them, more retailers have remained open each year. This spurred more than 200,000 Brits to sign a petition asking the government to force shop-owners to close that day, so that retail workers can enjoy “some decent family time to relax and enjoy the festivities like everyone else.”
Prime Minister Theresa May responded that British businesses, like the post-Brexit UK, are free to remain open for business. “We do not believe it is for central government to tell businesses how to run their shops or how best to serve their customers,” the administration said. “Therefore, we are not proposing to ban shops from opening on Boxing Day.”
Her decision begins with the right procedural point by reining in central government. While government offices closed, it is not her place to dictate that policy to businesses of varying sizes and facing differing local circumstances (and financial outlooks). There are also other considerations.
Some people cannot be given the holiday – or any holiday – off because of the nature of their work allows no breaks. Aside from emergency and medical personnel, convenience store clerks, security guards, and a host of other professions would be structurally excluded from any government proclamation.
But what about the rest of the people? Was her decision a bane or a boon for workers? Is this humbug or helpful?