Do we have to give staff the bank holiday off?

16th September 2022

Do we have to give staff the bank holiday off?

RIP Her Majesty

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As most of you are aware, the State Funeral of the late queen, Elizabeth II, on 19th September 2022 has been declared a bank holiday. Do you need to give your staff the day off and do you need to pay for it?

The legal status of bank holidays

At a point in UK life that is redolent with history, here’s a little more. When the right to holiday pay was introduced by the Working Time Regulations in 1998, it mirrored the EU Working Time Directive in providing for 4 weeks holiday pay.

For most employers, this meant providing 4 weeks holiday on top of the 8 bank and public holidays. But for some, noting that no legislation makes the bank and public holidays compulsory, it meant 4 weeks including the 8 bank and public holidays, leaving employees working five days per week with 12 working days holiday over and above the bank and public holidays.

This discrepancy was addressed in 2007, leading to the current statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks holiday pay (i.e 28 days inclusive of bank and public holidays for workers working 5 days per week). Most employers who were already providing for 4 weeks plus public and bank holidays did not modify their full time employees’ contracts of employment as 20+8 = 5.6 x 5 = 28.

The introduction of an extra public holiday for the Queen’s funeral on 19th September 2022, and the fact that Scotland has 9 bank and public holidays, and Wales has 10 introduces a degree of complexity.

What does your contract say?

Employers who express the holiday entitlement as 5.6 weeks inclusive of bank holiday will not be legally bound to pay an extra day for the funeral. Those employers who express holiday entitlement for their full time staff as 20 days plus bank holidays will have to pay for the extra day.

Any employers who state entitlement as 20 days plus usual bank holidays will need to give the situation some thought!

Should you give staff the day off?

Whether you can request that your staff work on 19th September 2022 depends on the wording of your contracts and staff handbook.

However, 19th September 2022 will not be an ordinary day or even an ordinary bank holiday. Most retailers and sport venue have announced that they will be closing for the day and it is likely that the vast majority of the population will want to be watching this historical event.

For most employers, there will be no point in staying open for the day. For those employers who cannot close, such as the A&E department, or have a good reason to stay open, you may want to give your staff a financial incentive to attend work on the day if you want to avoid potentially damaging publicity.

Should you pay your staff for the day off?

As stated above if your contract provides for a number of days inclusive of bank holidays, the day off on 19th September 2022 can be deducted from your staff annual holiday entitlement, but should you?

Final thoughts

There is no legal entitlement to take a bank holiday off, and most employers are clear about this in their contracts and staff handbooks. The current situation is exceptional, and it’s clear that for many, emotions are running higher than normal.

Therefore, the answer to whether to give staff the day off or pay them for this extra day off may require a little more consideration than normal, regardless of the clear legal position.

How are you dealing with the bank holiday? We would love to hear your feedback.

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