Managing Bank Holidays

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With two bank holidays looming, we have been asked for clarification on bank holidays and whether or not an employer can require an employee to work on a bank holiday. Workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid leave each year under the Working Time Regulations 1998. For an employee working five days per week, 5.6 weeks equates to 28 days and this is pro-rated for part-time employees. If a worker works more than five days per week, this makes no difference as the entitlement is capped at 28 days. Most years there are eight bank and public holidays in England and Wales and nine in Scotland. There is no differentiation between bank and public holidays and any other days in the regulations which allow them to be part of the 5.6 week entitlement. If a Company chooses, they can of course grant workers additional days’ holiday entitlement over and above the statutory entitlement. We are often told by clients that employees believe they have a right to take all bank and public holidays off. This is not true. There is no statutory right for employees to take time off on bank and public holidays other than employees within banks who cannot be required to work on bank holidays under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971. The bank holidays are determined by this Act and Royal Proclamation. In England and Wales these are normally New Year’s Day, Easter Monday, the first and last Mondays in May, the last Monday in August, Boxing Day if it is not a Sunday and 27th December if Christmas Day or Boxing Day falls on a Sunday. Further days can be declared as bank holidays by Royal Proclamation. Good Friday and Christmas Day are common law holidays. These days are often referred to as “public holidays”. Scotland is slightly different and has New Year’s Day, 2nd January, Good Friday, the first and last Mondays in May, the first Monday in August, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and St Andrew’s Day or the following Monday if it falls on a Saturday or Sunday. There are additional “local” holidays set which vary from region to region. If your Company decides to close on these holidays, then the employees can be required to take leave on those days and this will be deducted from their 28 days’ holiday. It is important that employers make it quite clear in an employee’s contract of employment whether their holiday entitlement is in addition to or inclusive of bank and public holidays so as to avoid any misinterpretation. If you require an employee to work on a bank holiday they do not automatically have the right, contrary to popular belief, to be paid double time. Check what is stated in their contract but if it is silent on what is to be paid, then there is no problem in them being paid their standard rate of pay.

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