2022 will be remembered for many things: one of which is the number of extra bank holidays we have seen over the year.  Generally, the UK does not figure very highly on the world league table of bank holidays.  The normal 8 bank holidays we see in England and Wales,  looking  comparatively miserly when compared with other countries such as Cambodia (29 days), Sri Lanka (26 days) and  India (21 days).

With the announcement, at understandably short notice,  that Monday 19 September 2022 will be a national bank holiday for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, many employers are wondering what their obligations are and what their employees are entitled to.

The starting point is that there is no statutory  right for employees to be given time off for the Queen’s funeral, unless an employee’s contract of employment is worded as such.  Holiday provision is one of the express statutory particulars  which must be given to employers and can be found in a variety of documents such as offer letters, handbook, statement of particulars  as well as a standard contract of employment.

So what are the options?

  • If the employment contract states that an employee is entitled to a specific number of day’s annual leave plus unspecified bank holidays , your employees should be entitled to the additional day.
  • If the employment contract doesn’t mention bank holidays or, more commonly, states a specific number of bank holidays to which the employee is entitled , and presumably the Queen’s funeral is not mentioned, then the employee may not be entitled to the additional days leave  and it is for the employer  to decide whether to grant the additional leave.

One tricky issue that has already arisen is how to deal with school closures on the 19th ? Should an employer decide that your business needs to remain open on the bank holiday, then the employer needs to agree with their employees how time off will be covered due to the closure of schools.  There are a couple of options: either allow employees to take a day’s paid holiday or let them to treat the day as part of their right to time off for dependents which provides for a day’s unpaid leave.

And finally employers need to ensure that they clarify and communicate their decision to employees as quickly as possible.  If the employer elects to remain open for business, they should explain the rationale and what, if any changes, they may choose to implement on the day itself.  The employer may wish to consider,  based on their contract  and policies, whether the employee is entitled to receive an additional day’s lieu of working on the bank  holiday and/or whether  the employees are entitled to any enhanced pay for working on a bank  holiday.

At a later point,  employers may also wish to review and , if necessary, amend holiday entitlement rules, mindful of course of the rules surrounding the implementation of any contractual changes.

Catherine Wilson