Bank holidays and employee entitlement

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According to the Office of National Statistics, over 850,000 people were working on Christmas Day 2012, accounting for 2.9% of the UK’s workforce.

Regular festive workers include NHS staff, care workers and officers from the police, fire and ambulance services – not forgetting members of the clergy! The list also includes staff who work in the hospitality sector, security guards and prison guards.

Working on bank holidays is becoming increasingly common in the UK, particularly in the retail sector, and with eight permanent bank holidays per year in the UK – New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Day, Spring Bank Holiday, Late Summer, Christmas Day and Boxing Day – it is important employers have sufficient knowledge about employment law covering bank holidays.

Here is our advice on managing bank holiday working:

–  An employee’s entitlement to time off depends on the terms set out in the contract of employment. There is no statutory right for employees to take a bank holiday off work.

–  There should be no difference in the treatment of part-time and full-time workers when it comes to bank-holiday entitlement. The best approach is to give part-time workers a pro-rata allowance of paid bank holidays, irrespective of whether or not they usually work on bank holidays – unless contracted to.

–  Employees cannot refuse to work on bank holidays if it is in their contract to do so, even for religious reasons. Although employers should be aware that not allowing religious-orientated employees time off during bank holidays that are significant to their religion could be seen as discriminatory if non-religious employees are given that time off.

–  There is no statutory right to extra pay when employees work on a bank holiday. Any additional pay will be set out in the employee’s contract of employment.

–  Employee time off on bank holidays will count towards their statutory holiday unless their employment contract agrees to give employees bank holiday entitlement on top of their statutory holiday.


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