News & Insights

Bank holiday season

Last year it was announced that there would be an additional bank holiday in June to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, which raised questions as to whether all employees would be entitled to receive it automatically. Unfortunately, the answer is no, and whether it is a legal obligation is down to the wording of the employment contract.

An employee’s contract is often worded in one of the following ways:

  • The employee’s contract states that they are entitled to X days plus bank holidays
  • The employee’s contract states Y days of holiday inclusive of bank holidays
  • The employee’s contract states they are given usual bank holidays

This means that the only way that the employee is entitled to the extra bank holiday contractually is if the contract is worded in a similar manner to the first bullet point, which covers all bank holidays. The other two examples do not do this and therefore the decision as to whether to give this extra day lays in the hands of the employer. It is predicted that even if this bank holiday is not necessary, many employers will choose to give their employees the day as a gesture of goodwill or arrange for time off in lieu.

The position is essentially the same for both full-time and part-time employees, in that their entitlement to the extra bank holiday will depend on the wording in their contract. Employers should nonetheless ensure that their approach to holidays and bank holidays does not disadvantage part-timers (on a pro rata basis), as this could result in claims for less favourable treatment of part-time workers.

If the business usually operates on bank holidays, then it should be expected that employees will work as normal with the same benefits they would ordinarily get. For example, extra pay as an incentive to work the holiday. If a company has employees on maternity leave, then they should continue to accrue annual leave in accordance with their contract as well.

The public were given an additional bank holiday in 2011 for the Royal Wedding and again in 2012 for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It may be wise for employers to look at the way they previously applied these bank holidays towards the decision that they make this year. Employers should be wary that if they have offered employees the other extra bank holidays and choose not to do the same this year, it could cause difficulties with employee relations, especially amongst those who worked at the company in 2011 and 2012.

Whilst it is assumed that many employers will give their employees the additional bank holiday even without the legal obligation, the situation still has a possibility of causing some concerns.