The Government has announced that Monday 19 September will be a bank holiday to coincide with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s State Funeral, and allow individuals, businesses and other organisations to pay their respects and commemorate her reign. Schools will close on this day and the bank holiday will take place across the whole of the United Kingdom. The Government has advised that although there’s no statutory entitlement for staff to have bank holidays off, they expect employers to respond sensitively to staff who wish to take the day of the funeral off work.
As a general rule, eligible staff (employees, casual workers and agency workers) are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks paid holiday leave every year, which is equivalent to 28 days per year for a full-time staff member. Whether you can require staff to take bank and public holidays as part of this entitlement, and/or you need to pay them extra for working on a bank holiday, depends on their employment contract. We’ve set out a refresher on how to manage your staff fairly when deciding whether to give them a day off for this bank holiday.
There’s no automatic entitlement for bank or public holidays off work
There is no automatic legal entitlement for your staff to take bank or public holidays off work, which means you’re not required by legislation to allow your staff to take the extra bank holiday off. The only exception to this is that some banking sector workers do automatically get bank holidays off.
The government has emphasised in its announcement that it can’t interfere in existing contractual arrangements between you and your staff, but that it would expect that many workers will be able to take the day off for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. You should respond sensitively to requests from your staff members to take the day off work, and make sure you check what their employment contract entitles them to (see further guidance below).
You must check what their employment contract says
Because there’s no automatic legal right for most staff to take bank or public holidays off work, you’ll need to carefully check your staff members’ employment contracts to see if they’re contractually entitled to the extra day off. For example:
1. Their contract says they are entitled to a certain number of days annual leave, in addition to all bank and public holidays
Staff are entitled to take the extra bank holiday off in this scenario.
2. Their contract says they are entitled to a certain number of days annual leave, inclusive of bank and public holidays
In this scenario, it will be up to you whether you allow them to take the extra day off, as their contract does not explicitly entitle them to it.
3. Their contract says they are entitled to the normal bank and public holidays as annual leave
As the extra bank holiday is not one of the ‘normal’ eight bank and public holidays in England and Wales, it will be up to you whether you allow your staff members to take it; their contract does not automatically entitle them to this bank holiday off.
Given that this bank holiday will be a day of national importance, and your staff may feel strongly about having the day off to pay their respects, you should handle any requests for the bank holiday off sensitively. If your staff aren’t contractually entitled to the extra day off, and you decide that you need them to work through, you should explain the reasons why you need them to work and express your thanks for their understanding. If possible, you may wish to consider giving them a half day or early finish to help boost morale.
There’s no legal right for staff to be paid extra for working on bank or public holidays
Bear in mind that if your staff are working on the bank holiday, they’ll only be entitled to be paid extra, or take an additional day’s holiday another day, if their contract says so.
Whatever approach your business takes to the extra bank holiday, make sure you communicate your position clearly with your staff as early as possible. If you are allowing your staff to take the day off as holiday even though they’re not contractually entitled to it, it’s good practice to make it clear that you are providing this extra benefit as a one-off gesture of goodwill.
Don’t forget to treat part-time staff fairly
If your staff aren’t contractually entitled to the extra day off but you decide to give it to them anyway, make sure you consider the implications for part-time staff. You must make sure that you do not treat part-time staff less favourably than comparable full-time staff, or you could face discrimination claims. This means that if the bank holiday falls on one of a part-time staff member’s usual non-working days, you must make sure their holiday allowance is adjusted on a pro rata basis to ensure they don’t miss out on the extra leave.
Marion joined Sparqa Legal as a Senior Legal Editor in 2018. She previously worked as a corporate/commercial lawyer for five years at one of New Zealand’s leading law firms, Kensington Swan (now Dentons Kensington Swan), and as an in-house legal consultant for a UK tech company. Marion regularly writes for Sparqa’s blog, contributing across its commercial, IP and health and safety law content.