Can contractors have time off at Christmas?

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As a limited company director, we know that it can be difficult to switch off and take holidays – it’s your business we’re talking about after all. But it’s really important to get a good work-life balance, and what better time to do this than at Christmas?

Whether your end client actually allows you to take time off might depend on your contract. Don’t get us wrong – it's unlikely you will be made to work over Christmas if the office is shut for all permanent employees, but if it’s their policy to be working, you might not have a choice!

Don’t worry though – you have a few options if you’re craving a bit of festive time off to gorge on mince pies and mulled wine.

shutterstock_7890715Take your holiday between contracts

One of the benefits of contracting is that you can time your assignments and take your holidays in between. You’ll probably want to have something lined up for January or be pretty confident in your ability to find something quickly. You don't want to end up struggling to pay off Christmas. Another option is to put a bit away in the bank and take a really long break to beat the January blues altogether!

Take holidays during your existing contract

Some end clients will be happy for you to do this, especially if it’s quiet for them over Christmas. But if it’s their busiest time of the year, your request to get a last minute break might not go down so well. You’ll need to weigh up your options. After all, you might be relying on the client for a reference or additional work somewhere down the line.

Find a substitute

If you’re working outside IR35, your contract should include a right of substitution. Basically you can substitute yourself for another contractor who offers the same level of services. This will be at your cost, but it could be an invaluable way of spending Christmas with the family. Just make sure that whoever you choose is up to the job – it’s your reputation on the line.

Now that you’ve organised a Christmas holiday, here’s a few tips to make it as stress-free as possible:

1. Give yourself a chance to unwind

Switch your phone off if you’re feeling brave or make a pact to only check emails or your voicemail once a day – we know the feeling of coming back to hundreds of new emails after a relaxing break.

2. Make sure all your tax affairs are in order

Check you don’t have any upcoming payment deadlines with HMRC. Speak to your contractor accountant in good time to get everything sorted if you do.

3. Keep existing and future clients in the loop

If you’re in the middle of a contract, give the end client at least one month’s notice for any holidays and try to complete any projects before you go. If you’re taking a break between contracts, make sure the contact on your next assignment knows you’re away and unable to be contacted

4. Be reasonable

While flexibility might be one of the selling points of a contracting way of life, it might be worth thinking like a permie when it comes to holidays, especially if you’re in the middle of a contract. Try not to take more than two weeks off. It will help your bank balance and your relationship with the end client – trust us

Before you go away, don’t forget to organise the all important party. Find out how to pay for a Christmas party through your limited company!