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June’s extra bank holiday is welcome news but what does it mean to employers?

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The business sector is keen to make this year’s extra June Bank Holiday, which marks the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, to become a permanent fixture in UK calendars. It’s an extra day for the nation, granted in recognition of Her Majesty’s “extraordinary” service and the hard work shown throughout the pandemic.

A new “Thank Holiday” would recognise her service and bring communities together, whilst boosting the economy post-Covid. And with the average number of bank holidays across the European Union standing at 11, whilst England and Wales currently only have eight, Rishi Sunak is said to be seriously considering the proposals.

But if approved, what will employers need to do to prepare for it?

Alan Price, CEO at BrightHR, says that employers may have to look at revamping staff contracts and entitlements. He explains: “Though many workers enjoy a day off when a bank holiday rolls around, it’s important to note that they are not actually a statutory right, not even this special June bank holiday.

A bank holiday isn’t an automatic day off

“Employees are not automatically entitled to a day off when it comes to bank holidays; rather, it’s all based on what’s in your contract of employment.

“All employees have the right to 5.6 weeks (28 days) of yearly paid holiday at a minimum. However, this can include, exclude, or be in addition to bank holidays – depending on the terms of their contract.

“If the contract does not specify the number of bank holidays your employees are entitled to, then they can take them all. This includes any additional public holidays.

“Likewise, if the contract specifies that employees are ‘entitled to all bank holidays’, they can take them all off – even if dates move or new ones pop up.

“The contract might specify the number of bank holidays your employee is entitled to or even list specific bank holiday dates. This might be the currently registered eight bank holidays you can find on the GOV.UK website – or a select few. In either case, it is unlikely that your employee would be entitled to take an extra bank holiday under these terms.

“This situation highlights the importance of getting contracts of employment right and knowing what is and is not included.

“There are some industries, for example hospitality, that are exceptionally busy over bank holiday periods and unable to close. If employers need staff to work but they are entitled to take the extra day off, then the easiest option is to grant a day off in lieu.

“If the opposite is true and you are looking to close the business for the extra Bank Holiday, but staff are due to work then you would have two options. Either give your employees the extra paid holiday or ask them to take the day out of their annual leave – for the latter, you will need to provide at least two days’ notice and should also include the rule in your employment contracts and handbooks.

“It is important to prepare for an influx of annual leave requests if your staff are due to work. Having a good holiday policy will help you avoid accusations of favouritism if you are unable to give everyone the time off. With a holiday policy, your employees know your process for approving and rejecting holiday requests upfront.

“Now for the age-old question: should I give my employees bank holidays off?

“You might want to consider it. Even though there is no legal obligation to do so, giving staff the extra days off will improve employee relations and morale. With the additional extra Bank Holiday this year and potentially in subsequent years too, it is a great way to show appreciation to your employees, especially as we emerge from a global pandemic.”


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