Navigating Unusual Bank Holidays
Following the announcement of a bank holiday for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, Callum De Freitas considers how these unusual, one-off public holidays should be treated by employers.
There is no specific legal right to time off, whether paid or otherwise, on a public holiday. This is a matter to be decided purely by the worker’s contract – in some industries, working on public holidays is seen as necessary.
If a worker takes leave on a public holiday, this will be deducted from the worker’s holiday entitlement. Workers have a legal entitlement to 5.6 weeks of leave per holiday year. For full-time workers, this ordinarily works out as 28 days of leave.
Some employment contracts will state that the worker is entitled to X days of paid holiday, being at least 28 days, including public holidays. The other typical method of presenting holiday entitlement is to say that the worker is entitled to X days of paid holiday, being at least 20 days, plus the 8 usual bank holidays in England and Wales.
The former method gives workers more flexibility as to when to take their holiday days, as there is no requirement that they take off the usual public holidays, and they can instead take these 8 days at some other point in the year (unless there is a separate clause entitling the employer to require them to take certain days as holiday, and the employer exercises this entitlement). It also means that employers do not have to give their workers these specific public holiday days off, which is useful for organisations working in industries that need to continue operating on public holidays.
The latter method has the advantage of providing both parties with the certainty that the usual bank holidays will be holiday days for the worker. However, care should be taken when drafting the wording of these holiday provisions – if the contract says that the worker is entitled to 20 days’ holiday entitlement in addition to bank and public holidays in England and Wales, then this will entitle the worker to impromptu public holidays such as the Queen’s funeral. Further, the worker will retain their 20 days of non-public holiday entitlement and will therefore gain a day of holiday by virtue of the announcement of an additional public holiday.
This can be avoided by stating that the worker is entitled to 20 days’ holiday entitlement in addition to the 8 usual bank holidays in England and Wales – any additional, unusual public holidays will need to be taken by the worker from the 20 days’ entitlement, if taken at all.
If you have any questions about your employment contracts or holiday entitlements, please contact Callum De Freitas at [email protected]