The Funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, which will take place on Monday 19th September, has been declared a bank holiday in the United Kingdom. Employers will need to consider their employees’ annual leave entitlements before deciding on how to approach the bank holiday, say Rebecca Mahon and Cai O'Kane.
The Government’s guidance on the recently announced public holiday does state that they “expect employers to respond sensitively to requests from workers who wish to take the day of the funeral off work”. Whilst clear in its sentiment, some employers may be concerned as to how the bank holiday aligns with their employee’s annual leave entitlement.
In the UK, there is no legal entitlement to be paid for time off for a bank holiday. Rather, an employee’s right to the day off on a bank holiday will be governed by the terms of their employment contract.
For example, if an employment contract reads along the lines of: “20 days holiday per annum plus the usual bank/public holidays in England and Wales” (or something to that effect), an employee will not automatically be entitled to have the 19th off. This is because the bank holiday to mark the Queen’s funeral does not fall into the “usual bank/public holidays”. This is not to say that employers can’t still allow their employees the day off for the Queen’s funeral but that the bank holiday will fall outside of the employee’s annual leave entitlement.
Conversely, an employment contract that reads: “20 days holiday plus bank holidays” will likely entitle an employee to the day off on the 19th of September. This is down to the Government declaring the Queen’s funeral as a bank holiday throughout the UK.
Annual leave entitlements within employment contracts can vary significantly in their wording and it is important that employers have a firm understanding of their employees’ precise entitlement. Moreover, it may be prudent to consider any definitions of bank/public holidays contained within your company’s staff handbook.
Depending on the wording of your employment contracts, there are several ways an employer may approach the bank holiday:
Future Bank Holidays
Whatever approach your business takes, it is important if you are giving employees the day off that you make it clear that this is a one-off entitlement and does not establish a precedent for future unexpected ban holidays – the coronation of King Charles III, for example.
If you have any queries regarding your employees’ annual leave entitlement, please contact our Employment Team.