According to analysis by the TUC, almost one million workers are thought to have had to work on Christmas Day this year.

Based on official statistics, it estimated that the number of employees who worked on Friday 25 December in the UK was in excess of 900,000 this year – an increase of 42,000 (five per cent) over the last three years.

Care workers and home carers were by far the biggest group of workers on duty that day, with 168,000 of them at work this year compared to153,000 in 2012. Nurses constituted the next biggest group – 89,000 of them were on the wards compared to 77,000 in 2012. In addition there were about 46,000 nursing auxiliaries and assistants on duty and about 17,000 doctors.

A large army of about 42,000 chefs, 23,000 kitchen and catering assistants, 15,000 waiting staff and 13,000 bar staff also turned up for work in hotels, pubs and restaurants.

In addition, about 22,000 police officers and 28,000 security guards were at work. And 15,000 or so farm workers had to ensure that animals were looked after.

Christmas Day services also meant that 20,000 clergy were kept busy, although this represents a drop of 6,000 compared to 2012.

The TUC analysis found that workers in the North East were the most likely to be at work, followed by the East Midlands and the South West. Workers in London were the least likely to have to turn up for work on Christmas Day.

Iain Birrell of Thompsons Solicitors commented “These figures from the TUC underline how important workers in our 24/7 world are. Without people willing to sacrifice their Christmas, our frontline services would be critically weakened and our safety would suffer as a result.

As the public sector is put under increasing strain and workers are expected to do more work with fewer resources, it is likely that more will have to work further unsociable hours. It is therefore vital that all workers who give up their Christmas Day to fulfil these essential roles are managed with their employers' full commitment to employment law and rights.”