The last time we wrote about the right to take time off on bank holidays, it was in more jubilant times – the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee seems a long time ago and is now overshadowed by an official state of mourning following the Queen’s death. King Charles III has announced that the day of the late Queen’s funeral (Monday 19 September 2022) will be a bank holiday across the UK.
As the nation mourns the death of Her Majesty the Queen, we are already receiving queries from employers asking whether their employees are entitled to take time off for this additional bank holiday, which will bring this year’s bank holiday count to 10 days (compared to the usual 8 bank holidays in England and Wales).
Many businesses may choose to honour the Queen’s death by closing on the bank holiday, but many may not be able to, especially those in essential services, transport, and hospitality.
Many employees may not be happy to learn that the King announcing an additional bank holiday does not automatically mean a day off work.
Whether or not an employee has a legal right to a day off on a bank holiday depends on what is in their contract of employment.
Check your employment contracts
If an employment contract states that an employee is entitled to bank holidays in addition to their annual leave entitlement and does not state the number or specific days of the bank holidays, it will be interpreted that employees will be entitled to all bank holidays in any given year – including the day of the Queen’s funeral.
However, if the contract states that the employee is entitled to eight bank holidays or the “usual” bank holidays, or bank holidays are included in an employee’s annual leave entitlement of a set number of days, the employer will not be required to give the upcoming bank holiday as an additional day of leave.
For examples of common contractual provisions and whether they mean that an employee is entitled to additional bank holidays, please refer to our previous article Guidance For Employers: Who is entitled to take time off for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday?
Custom and Practice
The right to take additional bank holidays off may also be implied into an employee’s contract by custom and practice – but this is unlikely to be the case, given the rare occasions on which additional bank holidays are granted in the UK.
Can an employer decide to give this as a day of leave anyway?
Yes, absolutely and employers may wish to do so.
Employers that do not grant the bank holiday as an additional day of paid leave may receive an influx of annual leave requests over the next week, especially as many schools will be closed on the bank holiday, leaving parents with children struggling to find childcare.
Employees whose childcare arrangements fall through at short notice may also be able to utilise their right to unpaid Time off for Dependents.
If you have further questions about this, please feel free to get in touch with a member of the Employment Team.