Are employees entitled to the day off for the Queen’s funeral bank holiday?

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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.

Bank Holiday 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.

Working Arrangements for the Bank Holiday

Depending on the wording of your employment contracts, there are several ways an employer may approach the bank holiday:

  • Do not recognise the bank holiday: Although likely to be unfavourable amongst employees, there will be certain businesses who can not afford to unexpectedly close shop for the day. If their employment contracts allow it, employers are well within their rights to request that staff appear for work during the bank holiday.
  • Recognise the Bank Holiday as an additional day’s leave: Likely to be the most popular decision amongst employees, employers can simply treat the Queen’s funeral as an additional day’s leave that is added to regular leave entitlements.
  • Allow urgent leave requests: Businesses may opt to continue operating as normal on the bank holiday but allow employees to take holiday – or unpaid leave – upon request.
  • Take leave out of employees’ normal entitlement: If advanced notice is given, it is acceptable to recognise the bank holiday and take the day out of your employees’ contractual entitlement. Much like not recognising the bank holiday, this is likely to be an unpopular approach with staff.
  • What about Part-time workers? The employee’s contract will still need to be assessed. Employers may choose to pro-rate entitlement as they would for other bank holidays or simply afford them an additional day out of good will for a day of mourning.

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.