An Employer’s Guide to Managing Bank Holidays

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It’s that time of year again when Bank Holiday weekends are on the horizon and without tempting fate; it seems the sun may actually have his hat on this weekend!

In this article we look at some frequently asked questions regarding bank holidays and the headaches they can sometimes cause for employers, whether it’s business as usual for your company during a bank holiday weekend or whether you’re closed.

Can staff demand a bank holiday off work?

Technically no but it depends on the contract and how your business operates.

A lot of companies give their staff the statutory amount of annual leave each year, which is 28 days (5.6 weeks) for a full time worker.

This means that the 8 statutory bank holidays are included in the 28 day entitlement. If you close your business on a bank holiday this is very straight forward. Your staff who would normally be in work on the day a bank holiday falls will have the time off for the bank holiday deducted from their holiday entitlement and will be paid accordingly.

If your business is open on a bank holiday and the bank holiday falls on their normal working day they are expected to be in work, unless of course they have requested the day off and it has been approved.

To avoid any dispute, it is vital that if you do require your staff to work on bank holidays that their contract of employment reflects this.

I have a part-time member of staff who works on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They say that they have less leave than their part-time colleague who works Wednesday, Thursday and Friday because most bank holidays fall on a Monday. Do I need to increase their entitlement?

No. This is a common misconception.

It is all about the actual time off each of these employees have from work. So if we take the example above and assume the employer allows 28 days leave (including bank holidays) for its full time staff, an employee working 3 days a week would be entitled to 16.8 days a year, rounded up to 17 days.

Let’s also conclude the business is closed on bank holidays.

The employee who works Monday to Wednesday will have any Monday bank holiday off work and will be paid for that day. This day will be deducted from their holiday entitlement.

Their colleague who works Wednesday to Friday is not affected by a bank holiday falling on a Monday because it is not their normal working day. They do not have a day deducted from their entitlement nor are they paid for this day.

It seems unfair because with the exception of Good Friday and how the Christmas holiday fall in any given year, the part-time employee who does not work on Mondays seems to have more days leave to play with than their colleague but they both actually receive the same number of paid days off in a holiday year.

Please be aware that part-time employees are legally protected from less favourable treatment to their full-time colleagues. So please ensure that whatever the full time holiday equivalent is for full time staff, that part time staff are also given the pro rata equivalent.

A member of staff is insisting on taking Good Friday and Easter Monday off for religious reasons. What should I do, do I have to give them the time off?

The Equality Act does not state that employees have a right to time off for religious reasons, so technically the answer is no. However we need to be mindful that some bank holidays do fall at times of religious significance.

Refer back to our article on discrimination (read more) to make sure you are not indirectly discriminating against an employee who requests the time off for religious reasons. Make sure they are not disadvantaged when compared to employees of other faiths or those who are not religious.

So if it is business as usual for you on bank holidays and the contract requires an employee to work, you are entitled to insist on this but if a holiday is requested for religious reasons and you can accommodate the request, do so.

I have an employee who always goes off sick on bank holidays and prior to/following a bank holiday, what can I do, can I refuse to pay them?

Don’t make assumptions!

If you are spotting patterns like this then you need to conduct an investigation. Assuming the absences are not linked to pregnancy or disability then you may be able to take disciplinary action.

If you are able to prove the absence is not genuine then you may be able to withhold sick pay- however you must exercise caution before withholding any payments from employees.

Check out our articles on managing sickness absence for practical guidance on managing sickness absence and when disciplinary action is appropriate: