“May Day, May Day”: What employers need to know about bank holidays

The May bank holiday will thankfully be upon us on Monday. Below we have set out some points about the legal aspects of bank holidays which employers need to know.

  • Paid time off
    There is no statutory right to time off (paid or otherwise) on a bank holiday. Whether an employee is paid for the day is a matter for the contract. Employers should check that their employment contracts are clearly drafted so as to make any entitlement to paid bank holidays clear.Employers may choose to count the day’s leave taken on a bank holiday against the employee’s statutory leave entitlement (28 days a year for those who work a five-day week). Again, this will be guided by the employment contract and many employers explicitly give staff bank holidays in addition to their annual leave entitlement.
  • Employees who work the day
    Whether an employee can be required to work on a bank holiday is a matter for the contract. There is no legal entitlement to pay a worker over and above their regular pay rate if they work on a bank holiday. This is again a matter for the contract.
  • Refusing to work on religious grounds
    Given the number of bank holidays with religious significance, it is possible that some employees may request annual (or unpaid) leave on religious grounds. Employers should be aware that refusal to grant leave requested for religious reasons could amount to indirect discrimination, unless the employer can show this is objectively justified.This will inevitably involve a balancing act and it may be possible for the employer to refuse to allow the time off, such as when there is no one available to cover the worker’s shift. However any such decision must be justifiable and care should be taken in this area.
  • Part time workers and bank holidays
    This has been something of a headache for employers for many years. The law does not specify how bank holiday leave entitlement should be calculated for part time workers.The recommended and established approach is to give part time staff a pro-rata entitlement to public holidays, disregarding whether or not they normally work on the day the holiday falls on. This avoids a situation where employees who do not normally work on Mondays (when most bank holidays fall) miss out on the holiday.
  • Workers on maternity and adoption leave
    An employee on maternity/adoption leave will continue to accrue contractual holiday, including any public holidays, throughout their ordinary and additional maternity/adoption leave. Since the employee will not be able to take the public holiday at the time it falls, they must be allowed to take it outside their leave period. Where employees are entitled to the statutory minimum 28 days holiday (inclusive of bank holidays) they have to be allowed to take all 28 days at another time. For employees whose contracts express bank holidays to be in addition to their annual leave entitlement (e.g. 25 days plus bank holidays) the position will depend on their contract of employment.

For more assistance on managing holiday issues and drafting contracts of employment please contact the Devonshires Employment Team.

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