It was announced on Saturday, following the proclamation of King Charles III, that Monday 19 September 2022 will be an additional bank holiday in the UK to allow the public to watch the state funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth II.
Unlike the additional bank holiday awarded as part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations earlier this year, employers only have a few days to plan whether and how they will allow staff to take this holiday. For some employers, it will not be possible to do so.
Darwin Gray highlight what the key questions for employers are.
Is it the law that employees have to be given the day off?
No: the additional bank holiday has been permitted by the UK Government but is not compulsory for employers and does not form an additional holiday entitlement to the 5.6 weeks’ annual leave awarded to employees under the Working Time Regulations 1998. Under UK employment law, employers therefore do not have to grant the day as annual leave.
What about contracts of employment?
The wording of employees’ contracts of employment will determine whether employers should allow staff to take an additional day off. Contracts which refer to the right to take “all public or bank holidays”, for example, may tie employers’ hands. Contracts which refer to “the usual public or bank holidays” will not, as this is an additional holiday announced in special circumstances and is not one of the “usual” 8 bank holidays that can be taken in England and Wales each year. Employers need to review their contracts and be mindful of how they are worded.
What does government guidance say?
The UK and Welsh Governments have both issued guidance on the additional bank holiday, but this is not very detailed, and this means that it is up to employers how they handle this issue, dependent on their contracts of employment and their business needs. The options for employers are:
- Allow the bank holiday to be taken as a one-off extra day’s paid leave;
- Give staff the option of taking it out of their existing annual leave entitlement or as unpaid leave;
- Ask staff to work the bank holiday, but consider whether they can be given an extra break or extended lunch break to watch the funeral of the Queen; or
- Do not allow the bank holiday to be taken at all if the needs of your business can’t accommodate this.
Whichever approach is taken, employers should be aware that feelings are likely to run high over this issue and their communications with staff over it should be handled sensitively and, as is key in employment law, in a reasonable way.
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