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Queen's funeral bank holiday - what are employers' obligations?

14 September 2022

It was announced over the weekend that Monday 19 September will be an additional public holiday to mark the funeral of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

Since this has, understandably, come at short notice, employers may wish to consider their position in relation to next Monday.

The starting position is that all employees are entitled under the Working Time Regulations to 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave per year. Bank holidays can count towards this if they are paid. However, there is no statutory obligation, as such, to give your employees paid time off on bank holidays, and there is no obligation to close your business on a bank or public holiday.

Whether or not your employees are entitled to paid time off is entirely dictated by your employment contracts.

What can your business do?

Depending on the wording of your contracts of employment, you may have a contractual obligation to give your employees an additional day of paid leave to account for an additional public holiday. This will apply as follows:

  • Contractual obligation to give your employees an additional day of paid holiday if your employment contracts grant:
    • a specific number of days’/weeks’ holiday every year, plus ‘all’ or ‘the’ bank and public holidays.
  • No contractual obligation to give your employees an additional day of paid holiday if your employment contracts grant:
    • a specific number of days’/weeks’ holiday every year, in total, or inclusive of ‘all’ or ‘the’ bank and public holidays.
    • a specific number of days’/weeks’ holiday every year, inclusive of ‘the usual’ bank and public holidays.
    • a specific number of days’/weeks’ holiday every year, plus ‘the usual’ bank and public holidays.

Employers would be well advised to check the wording of their contracts of employment to ensure that they understand their contractual obligations.

Note that if your employment contracts express a holiday entitlement inclusive of bank holidays, and you choose to close on Monday 19 September, the employee would have to take that day out of their 5.6 weeks’ annual entitlement and would be entitled to be paid for that day. The consequence would be that they would then have fewer paid leave days to take for the rest of the year. If they have already taken all their annual holiday entitlement then you probably have no option but to treat Monday 19 September as an additional day’s paid holiday. The exception to this would be if the employee leaves before the end of the holiday year, in which case you may be able to deduct a day’s excess holiday pay from their final salary.

It’s also worth noting that even if you do not have the contractual obligation to give your employees an extra day’s paid leave, this does not prevent you from using your discretion to close your business (if it’s commercially possible) and give them an extra day’s paid leave as a one-off. Indeed, this may be the sensible thing to do to maintain positive employee relations. There is, of course, also a PR aspect, since going against the general consensus about closing may not reflect well on your business.

Even if you have no contractual obligation to allow your employees time off for the additional bank holiday, if you choose to close your business, you will need to require your employees to take a day’s holiday out of their annual entitlement, by giving the appropriate notice, (2 days’ notice for 1 day’s leave). If this is the case, you should act quickly, to ensure you give the correct notice in time to enforce this requirement.

For assistance on employment contracts and the law surrounding paid leave, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our employment law team.

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Jenny is a partner in our employment law team. She helps clients with the full range of employment related matters including TUPE, defending tribunal proceedings, contractual matters and general employee relations and HR work. She has wide experience working for SMEs, owner-managed businesses and organisations employing in excess of 1,500 staff across the UK.

Disclaimer: All legal information is correct at the time of publication but please be aware that laws may change over time. This article contains general legal information but should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please seek professional legal advice about your specific situation - contact us; we’d be delighted to help.
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Jenny Hawrot LLB (Hons)
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