With the growing excitement for Her Majesty The Queen’s upcoming Platinum Jubilee and the announcement of an additional bank holiday to aid the celebrations, employment lawyers have seen more questions surrounding entitlement to the extra bank holiday off work, and bank holidays in general.

Are workers entitled to bank holidays off work?

You might be surprised and can be forgiven for assuming that workers are entitled to spend the extra bank holiday off work without forgoing any of their annual leave entitlement. However, there is no statutory right to time off on a bank holiday, and whether a worker can be required to work on a bank holiday depends on the exact wording of their employment contract.

Full-time workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks (28 days) paid holiday per year. An employer can choose whether this statutory minimum entitlement includes or excludes bank holidays. To put this into context, we will compare the hypothetical employment contracts of Harry and William. Harry’s employment contract states ‘in addition to bank and public holidays, your annual entitlement to holidays is X days’, therefore Harry will be entitled to time off on public and bank holidays in addition to his annual leave entitlement. Harry will therefore have an extra day off this year for the jubilee bank holiday. In comparison, William’s employment contract states that his ‘annual holiday entitlement (inclusive of bank and public holidays) is X days’, therefore William must take public and bank holidays off as part of his holiday entitlement. Whilst William will be entitled to spend the jubilee bank holiday off work, this will come out of his existing holiday entitlement and he will not get an additional day off this year.

How should an employer deal with bank holidays for part-time workers?

A common area of difficulty arises when an employer gives workers paid time off on bank holidays, because the employer must then decide how to calculate their bank holiday entitlement. If an employer only gives part-time workers paid time off for bank holidays which fall on their working days, the employer could risk breaching the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 (PWR) because this could result in part-time workers being treated less favourably than full-time workers.

This difficulty can be resolved by giving part-time workers a pro rata entitlement to time off on bank holidays, regardless of whether the bank holiday falls on the worker’s working day.

To demonstrate this, we will compare the different working arrangements for the hypothetical workers, Elizabeth and Charles. Elizabeth works full-time, Monday to Friday. Charles works part-time, Tuesday to Friday, which is 80% of the days worked by Elizabeth. In 2022, there are 5 bank holidays which fall on a Monday, and 4 bank holidays which fall on other days. Applying the pro rata principle, Charles is entitled to receive paid time off for 80% of the bank holidays during the year, which equates to 7.2 days. Only 4 bank holidays fall on Charles’ working days, therefore if Charles’ employer does not allow Charles to take the remaining 3.2 days off as annual leave, Charles will be treated less favourably than Elizabeth as a result of him not working Mondays.

Part-time workers such as Charles should not be made to take their holiday on a bank holiday if they would not usually work on this day, because a worker cannot be made to take their holiday on a day they would not otherwise be obliged to work under their contract.  It would also breach the PWR, because such a requirement would put part-time workers at a disadvantage compared to full-time workers who do not have to take annual leave on days they would not usually work.  In addition, if a part-time worker’s annual leave entitlement includes bank holidays, requesting that they take their holiday on a day they would not usually work could breach the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR).

What should an employer do if their holiday year runs 1 April – 31 March, and Easter moves?

Employers with a holiday year which runs from 1 April – 31 March, instead of 1 January – 31 December, should be mindful of when Easter bank holidays fall. Easter bank holiday dates change each year and could fall early one year and late the following year, affecting the number of bank holidays in the one holiday year. If a worker’s holiday entitlement is the statutory minimum inclusive of bank holidays, an employer may risk breaching the WTR if a worker is given less than their statutory minimum entitlement for that year.

For example, in 2023 Good Friday and Easter Monday fall on 7 and 10 April respectively, and in 2024 Good Friday and Easter Monday fall on 29 March and 1 April respectively. Therefore, in the holiday year 1 April 2023 – 31 March 2024 there will be an extra Easter bank holiday, and in the holiday year 1 April 2024 – 31 March 2025 there will be one less bank holiday. To avoid breaching the WTR, an employer with workers whose holiday is inclusive of public and bank holidays should ensure workers’ annual leave entitlement is calculated to take account of the varying number of bank holidays in each holiday year.  

So, before you go and hang up the bunting for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, make sure to check your contracts to ensure you know how to deal with workers’ requests to have the bank holiday off. Then, go and reward yourself with a cup of tea and a scone!