The last bank holiday of the year is nearly upon us, but there is still a lot employers and employees don’t know concerning bank holidays

Bank holiday

As August bank holiday draws near, there is a still a question of how much employers know about employment law in relation to bank holidays. From pay rates to part-time staff and more—the most important thing is the staff contracts of employment to avoid confusion.

Peninsula HR director Alan Price has some advice for employers:

Bank holidays differ depending on location

Each country across the UK has different bank holidays:

  • England and Wales have eight bank holidays
  • Scotland has nine, with three extra dates minus Easter Monday and the late August bank holiday
  • Northern Ireland has ten with two additional days for St Patrick’s Day and Orangemen’s Day

A contract of employment containing a list of bank holiday dates may need to be amended depending on where work is carried out.

There is no legal right to time off work during bank holidays

The law does not give employees a legal right to time off work for bank holidays, instead, this depends on the contract of employment. Employers can decide whether to give time off or not depending on their business needs. If the worker is not given time off for bank holidays they still need to receive 5.6 working weeks of annual leave as a minimum.

The wording of time off matters

Where employers give employees a contractual right to receive time off work for bank holidays, the wording in the contract is important.

A contract stating the employee has 28 days plus bank holidays means they receive 28 days holiday with the bank holidays on top.

A clause stating the employee has 28 days inclusive of bank holidays generally means the employee gets 20 days holiday and 8 days holiday to take for bank holidays, in England and Wales.

Employers also need to be aware that the timing of their holiday leave year could result in the employee receiving more time off in one year than the other. This is prevalent when the holiday year runs April – March, and Easter falls earlier than usual as this could result in the employee receiving more bank holidays one year than the next. It is important that the employee is still receiving their minimum holiday entitlement in the year with fewer bank holidays.

Should employees receive extra pay?

As with annual leave, there is no legal right to receive additional pay for working on bank holidays. Some employees may feel that they are entitled to this but any right to receive extra day depends on their contract of employment. Some employers decide to offer double pay or time-and-a-half as an incentive to encourage workers to work bank holidays and a failure to do this, where specified in their contract, will constitute a breach of contract. 

Part time working implications

Part time workers have the right to not be treated less favourably than a comparable full-time worker. Giving full-time employees time off for bank holidays and not part time workers will be less favourable treatment but some employers think this is correct, especially where part time workers would not normally work bank holidays. Instead, the safe approach is to give part time workers a pro-rata allowance of bank holidays, regardless of whether they normally work these days, as this allows them the same treatment with regards to annual leave entitlement. 

Be wary of religious discrimination

A policy requiring all staff to work bank holidays and refusing any time off could lead to claims of indirect discrimination where the request is for religious observance of a bank holiday with religious significance, for example, Easter Monday. Employers can justify such a policy if they have a legitimate aim and their means of achieving this are proportionate. Employers should examine each request on its own merits to determine if this can be granted to remove the risk.