Over the festive period, some businesses will be experiencing a peak in demand which means they will need as many staff in as possible.

Conversely, it may be a quiet time for others so they may shut for a few days over the holidays.

Whatever your situation, this guidance on bank holiday and annual leave will be useful in understanding the law, your obligations and employee rights.

When are the next few bank holidays?

In England and Wales, there are a number of bank holidays coming up in the next few weeks:

  • Monday 26th December 2016 (Boxing Day)
  • Tuesday 27th December 2016 (substitute date for Christmas Day)
  • Monday 2nd January 2017 (substitute day for News Years Day)
  • Tuesday 3rd January (Scotland only)

As some holidays fall on a weekend, a ‘substitute’ weekday becomes a bank holiday.

Holiday entitlement

Most workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year. Bank holidays may be counted as part of the statutory 5.6 weeks.

No automatic right to time off

Employees do not automatically have the right to have the day off on a bank holiday. Whether an employee works or is given time off will depend on what is stated in their Contract of Employment. The employee’s contract may say something along the lines that in addition to all bank and public holidays, the employee is entitled to X working days of holiday. Alternatively, the contract may say the employee’s annual leave entitlement of X days is inclusive of bank and public holidays.

In many cases, employers do grant the employee time off on bank holidays. However, in some sectors, the nature of their business means that employers will need their workers to work on bank holidays for commercial or operational reasons. This is the case of retail, transport and public services.

No duty to pay extra

There is no obligation on employers to pay extra for working on a bank holiday, but an employee may be entitled to more if this is stated in the Contract of Employment or based on customary arrangements. The employer may decide to pay the employee time and a half or double time for working on a bank holiday.

Dealing with requests

Most of us want to enjoy the festive season with family and friends, or perhaps take a week away from the cold and wet weather and have a holiday in the sun.

By this stage, you’d hope that people have already organised themselves and booked time off, but if they haven’t, remind them to do as soon as possible. Warn them not to book a hotel and flight away without first getting authorisation from their manager. They will also need to provide the required amount of notice – they cannot say they want next week off and only give a day’s notice.

If everyone wants to have the same days off, you could grant leave on the basis of “first come, first served”. You could also consider allowing people to choose between time off at Christmas or at New Year. Alternatively, if someone does not get the time off they requested at Christmas, they could be given priority when they are booking leave for their summer holiday.

It is also beneficial to encourage your team to collaborate with each other to coordinate leave to ensure operational business requirements are met and issues are quickly resolved.

Need specific advice?

Contact your Employment Law Adviser to discuss bank holidays and annual leave over the festive season in more detail. Their bespoke and comprehensive advice can alleviate all those Christmas headaches.

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