Are employees automatically entitled to a day off for the Queen’s funeral?
Whilst the nation is a period of mourning following the recent passing of Queen Elizabeth II, thoughts turn to her state funeral, due to be held on Monday, 19 September 2022, and the question of whether employees are automatically entitled to the bank holiday?
Unfortunately for employees, there is no statutory right to time off for bank/public holidays, but employers can choose to include these days as part of employees’ annual leave entitlement. Therefore, the first port of call in order to determine whether employees are entitled to time off is their contract of employment.
Contract of employment
Holiday entitlement is usually expressed in a contract of employment as the following (with some variations):
- X days’ holiday plus bank holidays; or
- X days’ holiday, which includes bank holidays.
In terms of examples:
“You are entitled to X days’ paid holiday each year. In addition, you are entitled to take bank/public holidays.”
In this situation, as bank holidays are included in addition to the employee’s annual leave allowance, and as the contract doesn’t stipulate the exact number of days they are entitled to, the employee will be contractually entitled to take – and be paid for – the extra bank holiday on 19 September 2022.
However, the employee’s contract may instead state:
“You are entitled to X days’ holiday during each holiday year. This includes any of the normal bank/public holidays you are permitted to take. The business recognises the following bank/public holidays…”
In this situation, as bank holidays form part of the employee’s set holiday entitlement, and because the employer has expressly provided the public holidays in question, the employee won’t have a contractual right to the extra bank holiday on 19 September 2022.
“You are entitled to X days’ holiday during each holiday year plus the usual bank/public holidays…”
In this situation, as 19 September 2022 is not usually observed as a bank holiday, the employee won’t have a contractual right to the extra bank holiday on this date.
Even if an employee is not entitled to the extra bank holiday on 19 September 2022, but employers intend to close their business, they have the option of requiring employees to use a day of their statutory annual leave entitlement to ensure they do not lose out on a day’s pay, although this would need to be actioned swiftly in light of the tight timescales involved. Employers need to give employees notice that is at least twice the length of the period of leave that the worker is being ordered to take- so in this case two days’ notice to take 1 day’s holiday.
Alternatively, employers may choose to grant the day as a gesture of goodwill, particularly as the circumstances leading to this bank holiday are unlikely to be a regular occurrence. This is also likely to provide a much-needed morale boost. If so, employers should ensure fairness and consistency of treatment, and would also need to:
- Allow a pro-rata amount of paid leave for part time workers, so anyone who does not work on a Monday would get the equivalent to take at another time of the year (for example, someone who works 2.5 FTE would need to be given a half day to take later in the year). The employer will likely need to recalculate public holiday entitlements for all part-time employees to ensure fairness (as those who usually work Mondays will be getting a full day off for this).
- If someone has pre-booked annual leave that day, employers will need to credit them this annual leave entitlement and replace as a paid public holiday entitlement.
- For those on family-related leave, employers will need to take this additional paid leave entitlement into account, in the same way as they would for other public holidays that fall within their family leave period, to avoid any argument that they were at a disadvantage compared to employees not on family leave.
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