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Six Things Employers Need to Know About Bank Vacations

The Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday is almost here! But how much do employers know about employment law on bank holidays? From pay rates to par

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The Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday is almost here! But how much do employers know about employment law on bank holidays? From pay rates to part-time staff and more, there is one common way to overcome the confusion — it is by using your staff contracts.

Here’s how.

Bank holiday dates vary by location

Every country across the UK has a different bank holiday structure:
England and Wales have eight bank holidays
Scotland has nine, with three extra dates minus Easter Monday and the late August banking holiday
Northern Ireland has ten with two additional days left for St Patrick’s Day and Orangemen’s Day

Each part of the UK will have an additional day in 2022 for the Platinum Jubilee Banking Holiday on 3 June.

An employment contract that contains a list of bank holiday dates may need to be amended, depending on where work is performed.

Is there a right to time off?

The law does not give employees a legal right to work for a bank holiday, but it does depend on the employment contract. Employers can decide whether they want to give time off or not, depending on their business needs. If the worker does not get leave for bank holidays, they must still receive 5.6 working weeks annual leave as a minimum.

The wording from time to time matters

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

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

A clause stipulating that the employee has 28 days, including bank holidays, usually means that the employee is given 20 days holiday and eight days holiday to take for bank holidays if they are employed in England and Wales.

Employers should also be aware that the timing of their vacation year can lead to the employee receiving more leave in one year than the other year. This is common when the holiday year extends April – March and Easter falls earlier than usual, as this can lead to the employee receiving more bank holidays one year than the next. It is important that the employee continues to receive their minimum holiday entitlement in the year with fewer bank holidays.

Do employees have to receive extra payment?

As with leave, there is no legal right to receive additional payment for work on bank holidays. Some employees may feel entitled to it, but any right to receive extra day depends on their employment contract. Some employers decide to offer double pay or time-and-a-half as an incentive to encourage workers to work holidays and a failure to do so, where specified in their contract, would result in a breach of contract make out.

Part-time work implications

Part-time workers have the right not to be treated less favorably than a comparable full-time worker. Giving full-time employees time off for a bank holiday and not part-time workers would be less favorable 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 work normally these days, as it allows them the same treatment with respect to annual leave.

Be wary of religious discrimination

A policy that requires all staff to work holidays and refuse at any time can lead to claims of indirect discrimination where the request is for religious maintenance 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 ways of achieving it are proportionate. Employers must examine each request on its own merits to determine if it can be granted to remove the risk.

Alan Price is HR Director at Peninsula

Further reading on bank holidays

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