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Royal wedding gives bosses a public holiday headache

17 February 2011

The extra bank holiday on 29 April for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton is going to be expensive whichever way you look at it, says Willan’s Employment team. The cost to the economy has been estimated at between £2.9 billion and £6 billion, depending on who you listen to.

For many employers, particular small ones, the extra day means a considerable cost to the business. While no doubt many will want to enter into the spirit of the occasion, an extra day’s pay will represent a significant hit to productivity for very many businesses .

The fact is that, contrary to popular opinion, employees do not have an automatic right to be paid for bank holidays. Whether or not an employer has to give his staff an extra day’s paid leave on that day (or indeed to give leave on bank holidays at all) depends on the terms of their employment contract.

What we commonly refer to as ‘bank’ or ‘public’ holidays are not recognised in an employee’s statutory rights.

For example, if contracts provide for ‘twenty days’ holiday plus bank holidays’ then staff may be entitled to the royal wedding day as well as the eight usual bank holidays.

But if contracts simply state ‘twenty-eight days’ holiday per year”, then there may not be a contractual right. The employer might, for example, then choose to close down on the wedding day but ask employees to take the day out of their annual holiday allowance.

The best approach for employers is to look carefully at their contractual provisions and, if necessary, seek advice to find out what their obligations are.  In any event, they will need to communicate their plans clearly and in good time to their staff and ensure that the issue is treated consistently across the workforce.

If you need clear and pragmatic legal advice, we’re here to help so please get in touch.

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