An additional national bank holiday has recently been declared to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral on 19 September 2022 and allow the nation to pay its respects.
However, the Government has also confirmed there is no statutory entitlement to time off for this bank holiday, sparking controversy on social media and causing confusion amongst both employers and employees alike as to what employees are actually entitled to in respect of bank holidays.
Are employees entitled to a day off work for bank holidays?
At law (under the Working Time Regulations 1998), employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ annual leave for each leave year. However, there is no specific right to paid or unpaid time off for bank holidays. Whether or not an employee is entitled to take bank holidays will be entirely dependent upon the wording of their contract of employment, which will often have been drafted to take into account the operational needs of the business. As such, in certain industries where a constant service is required (such as in retail, travel or emergency services), allowing the workforce time off for bank holidays is not viable.
Where an employer allows employees time off for bank holidays, the wording in the contract often limits this entitlement to the ‘usual’ bank holidays (such as Christmas day, Boxing day, Good Friday etc.). As with the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday earlier this year, this upcoming bank holiday is considered to be an ‘additional’ bank holiday and will therefore not be considered as ‘usual’ for the purposes of employees’ contracts of employment. Therefore, careful reading of employees’ contracts is essential in determining their contractual right to time off for this bank holiday.
How should this additional bank holiday be managed?
Where employees do not have a contractual right to time off for this bank holiday, it will be at the discretion of the employer to decide whether to allow paid time off. If it is decided that employees are required to work, employers may wish to consider providing a day off in lieu as a gesture of goodwill. In addition, employers should also be aware that employees working on the bank holiday may be entitled to a bank holiday rate of pay.
Employers may also wish to consider the potential negative implications if they were to treat this bank holiday dissimilarly to the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday without a clear business requirement. Queen Elizabeth II’s passing has had a significant impact on many individuals throughout the world and failing to take this into account may damage employee relations together with the public perception of the business.
Sobia Ahmad comments:
“Whilst employees’ entitlement to paid time off for the bank holiday will be dependent on the wording of each individual’s contract of employment, this is a good opportunity for employers to improve their goodwill amongst employees by allowing them to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II, whose death has had a profound impact upon many. However, employers should also evaluate the potential effects of this bank holiday on their operational capacity. Whilst some employers will be able to simply ‘shut their doors’, for others, greater consideration may need to be taken as to whether it is viable to provide their employees with time off for the bank holiday.”
For more information, please get in touch with a member of the team.
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