How to Handle Bank Holidays

Employers run the risk of a holiday ‘giveaway’ if they don’t check their employee contracts when it comes to annual leave.

Some employees are set to gain additional annual leave due to the days on which the Easter bank holidays fall this year, next year and in 2017. The wording in some employees’ contracts could land employers with an unanticipated liability for paying additional holiday, as a result of variations in Easter dates.

The issue will affect employers that operate an annual leave year that runs from 1 April to 31 March, and that set out their employees’ paid annual leave entitlement using wording along the lines of “20 days’ holiday plus bank holidays”.

Under working time rules, employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ annual leave, or 28 days’ leave per year for employees working a five-day week. The 28 days can include bank holidays, of which there are usually eight per year.

The way in which the 2015 Easter break fell meant that, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there were bank holidays on 3 and 6 April. In 2016, the bank holidays are earlier: Good Friday on 25 March and Easter Monday on 28 March. However, in 2017, Easter is later, with Good Friday falling on 14 April and Easter Monday on 17 April.

This means that two Easter breaks fall within a holiday year running from 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016: the Easter break that fell early in April 2015, and the Easter break falling in late March 2016. Affected employees will gain from two additional bank holidays (on top of the usual eight) for the leave year.

Failure to honour a contractual clause providing for “20 days’ holiday plus bank holidays” will result in the employer being in breach of contract, regardless of the fact that there are more than the usual number of bank holidays.

For a holiday year running 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017, employees would appear to lose out. There is no Easter break during the whole of the annual leave year, meaning that they will be entitled under their contract to just 26 days’ leave.

As an employer you should not rely on a bonus in holiday entitlement from one leave year to be ‘evened up’ by giving employees less than the statutory minimum in the next leave year. The 28-day entitlement is a statutory minimum and you cannot negotiate out of it, other than by an agreement with your employees to carry forward up to eight days’ holiday into the following leave year.

If you’re not sure what you need to do to avoid being in breach of your employee contracts, contact me on 0118 940 3032 or email and we’ll help you work out the numbers.

Question: Christmas is coming – Are Employees Who Work on Bank Holidays Entitled To Pay in Lieu or Additional Holidays?

Answer: This depends on the overall holiday entitlement and the terms of the employment contract. If the entitlement is the statutory minimum (which is 28 days including Bank Holidays) and an employee works on a Bank Holiday, they must have a day off in lieu so that the total paid leave stays at 28 days per year. This is for employees who work five days per week.

What about pay? If an employee is entitled to the day off on a Bank Holiday, then they will be entitled to their normal rate of pay for this, in the same way as they would for any other holiday. Contrary to popular belief, for those working on a Bank Holiday, there is no entitlement to extra pay, unless the terms of the person?s contract state otherwise. However, if employees are normally paid extra for working a Bank Holiday that should apply when additional public holiday days are announced too.

How about part-time employees?

Your obligation to part-time workers is governed by the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favorable Treatment) Regulations 2000. This means that part-time workers are entitled to the same holidays as comparable full-time workers, but on a pro rata basis.

You must make sure that a part-time employee receives his or her pro rated entitlement if bank holidays are included in the employee’s statutory minimum holiday entitlement, or if you grant holiday that exceeds the statutory minimum to your full-time workers.

Because most bank holidays fall on a Monday or Friday, part-time employees who do not work on these days could be entitled to proportionately fewer days off compared with full-time employees.

To avoid a complaint of less favorable many employers provide part-time employees with a pro rated bank holiday entitlement. Te best option is to calculate pro rated bank holiday entitlement according to the number of hours that the part-time employee works, irrespective of whether or not he or she works on the days on which bank holidays fall.

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