Spare a thought for Christmas workers like those in NHS, Armed Forces and care sector – Angus Robertson

More than three per cent of employees spend Christmas Day at work, rather than with their families, writes Angus Robertson.

Tuesday, 24th December 2019, 6:00 am
Health workers don't always get much of a break over the festive season. Picture: Getty

These festive days are stressful enough for most people with last-minute shopping, present wrapping, Christmas dinner preparation and all the rest. Expectations are high and the pressure is on to have the best celebrations possible. Spare a thought, however, for all those who this week will not share in the break from work or enjoy the company of friends and family.

If you’ve ever done shift work before, you will remember the good or bad news when the shift schedule came out: having Christmas off but not Hogmanay, working on Christmas but able to see in the Bells, or pulling the very short straw and working on both. That is particularly difficult for people with young families who want to spend precious time with their children and relatives. How difficult it is for those who have to phone to join celebrations at home.

According to the National office of Statistics, around 3.3 per cent of employees work on Christmas Day, which equates to 1.04 million people across the UK in both the public and private sectors.

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We take it for granted that our emergency services are there 24/7 365 days a year, and that includes the festive season. While most of us will be tucking into the turkey dinner and all the trimmings, think about the police, the firefighters, the ambulance staff, the NHS workers including doctors, nurses and all ancillary staff. Think about the mountain rescue, coastguard and RNLI personnel sitting on the edge of their seats ready to go at any second.

Care workers and foster parents

How about the armed forces? How about the 11,000 UK personnel celebrating Christmas while deployed abroad? These include 1,000 in Poland and Estonia, 2,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan, 800 across Africa, more than 1,000 in the Falkland Islands and personnel aboard 14 Royal Navy vessels. They are on hurricane relief missions, keeping the peace in trouble-spots abroad, on standby for quick reaction alerts around our shores. How about all the UN peacekeepers from all countries and charity workers around the world?

What about all the care workers? With an ever growing part of the population ageing and needing residential and home support, there are tens of thousands of care workers providing Christmas assistance to the old and infirm who really need it.

What about the foster parents providing Christmas cheer to children who otherwise would not be in a family?

Then there are all those in society for whom Christmas is a particular challenge: the homeless, the bereaved, the recently separated, the lonely, the depressed, the ill and injured. Spare a thought for them all and for those who are there to help them.

These days are of course particularly special for people of faith, even those with little or no faith. The Christmas message of the birth of Jesus Christ and celebration of the nativity is marked by billions of people around the world. It is a particularly busy time for the clergy of all denominations with services, masses and carol services throughout Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

To each and everyone who is celebrating over these festive days I would like to wish you a very happy Christmas. To those of you who are alone or feel troubled, you are in the thoughts of others. To those who are working on our behalf, a huge thank you.