Four day weekend, anyone?
Perhaps we needed cheering up: you may have heard that the government has announced a Platinum Jubilee four-day weekend in June 2022. As part of the celebration of the Queen’s 70th anniversary, the late May bank holiday will be moved to Thursday 2 June, with the added bonus of an additional bank holiday on Friday 3 June.
But does that mean that employees automatically get an extra paid day off? Not necessarily. A reminder about the legal history of ‘bank holidays’ may help you decide where you stand. The less- than-jolly-holiday sounding Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971 confirmed the legal status of bank holidays in England and Wales, which are:
- Easter Monday
- The last Monday in May
- The last Monday in August
- 26 December (Boxing Day), if not a Sunday
- 27 December, if either Christmas Day or Boxing Day falls on a Sunday
- Any other day proclaimed a bank holiday – which is where the Platinum holiday comes in.
The Act did not include Good Friday and Christmas Day because they were already recognised as ‘common law’ holidays.
The following have also been proclaimed bank holidays for many years:
- 1 January (or the next available working day).
- The first Monday in May
In Scotland, there’s a slightly different approach to bank holiday, with the inclusion of St Andrew’s. Northern Ireland also throws in the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne on 12 July.
Contrary to common belief, there is no absolute entitlement to paid time off for bank holidays. Back in 2007, the statutory annual leave entitlement was increased from 4 weeks to 4.8 weeks to address the fact that there was no entitlement to public holidays under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR), and many employers counted the eight public holidays (in England and Wales) as part of the then WTR four-week annual leave entitlement.
Although the increase was brought in for that purpose, it did not introduce a statutory right to time off (paid or otherwise) on any public holiday. The question of whether a worker can be required to work on a public holiday is a matter for the contract or, in some cases, simply the employer’s managerial prerogative. Of course, there are many occupations, such as the emergency services, where working on public holidays is a necessity.
Many employers give paid holiday on the public holidays in addition to the minimum statutory leave entitlement, but there is no obligation to do so, as long as the statutory minimum of 4.8 weeks is provided during the year. Good practice is that the contract makes it clear how the organisation treats bank holidays within the overall leave entitlement. If an employment contract is silent on the subject, a court or tribunal would be unlikely to imply a contractual right to paid public holidays unless there is an established custom and practice that has been enjoyed by staff.
Public and bank holidays can also cause particular challenges when dealing with part-time workers’ holiday entitlement and please do contact us if you’d like help in resolving your business’s approach to paid time off.