Do workers have a right to take time off on a Bank Holiday?

Home Articles Holidays Do workers have a right to take time off on a Bank Holiday?

The entitlement to annual leave in respect of a Bank Holiday is one that often confuses employers and workers alike; it’s a common misconception that workers have a right to take time off on these days.

The truth is that the employer retains control over leave on any Bank Holiday in the same way as any other day of leave. But how should an employer manage them? And what about extra Bank Holidays to mark a Royal celebration, for example?

The law on Bank Holidays

The Working Time Regulations 1998 gives workers the right to take minimum 5.6 weeks of paid leave per leave year. However, they do not give workers an absolute right to time off on Bank Holidays. Provided that a worker has the opportunity to take 5.6 working weeks off, it does not matter when those days are taken.

Convention means that many employers close down on Bank Holidays. Equally, many will remain open and so require some or all of their staff to work on those days.

An employer’s stance on taking leave on Bank Holidays – normally 8 per year – should be set out in the employee’s written contract of employment. Employers may:

  • Require staff to work on Bank Holidays;
  • Require staff to take them as annual leave;
  • Require staff to make a request for the day off if they want it off.

Working on Bank Holidays

Payment for working on Bank Holidays is subject to the worker’s contract and there is no right to enhanced pay for working those days unless the contract provides otherwise. However, where a worker works on a Bank Holiday, employers must ensure that they have the opportunity to take their full entitlement elsewhere in the leave year.

Part-time employees

The problem with part-time staff and Bank Holidays is that most fall on a Monday or Friday and if employees do not work on those days, they may not see the same benefit that full-time employees get. One way to ensure fair treatment is to calculate the employee’s pro-rata entitlement in hours and then require them to book any Bank Holidays that fall on their working days out of their entitlement.

Extra Bank Holidays

Time off on extra Bank Holidays – like the Queen’s Jubilee in 2012 – is dictated by the exact wording in the contract. Contracts stating workers are permitted paid time off on all Bank Holidays entitle the worker to the extra day off; those that stipulate the actual dates of the 8 usual Bank Holidays will not.

April to March leave years

The moveable nature of the Easter Bank Holidays can mean that there are between 6 and 10 Bank Holidays in an April to March leave year. Employers who operate this leave year must keep an eye on the calendar in order to ensure workers get minimum 5.6 weeks’ leave (28 days for a 5 day per week worker) by topping up days if necessary. In those leave years where 10 Bank Holidays fall, contracts should be written so as to restrict the number of days off to the usual limit in the business.


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