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.

Can My Employer Insist I Use My Holiday to do Jury Service?

As an employer, can you insist that your employees use their holiday allowance if they’re asked to do jury service? This was a question I was asked recently, so here is the answer.

An employer can’t insist that holiday is used for jury service, but they must give members of staff time off to complete the jury service. They are not allowed to refuse to give employees time off when summoned.

The employer may think that it is not a good time for that member of staff to be away from the business and on jury service – if there’s a heavy workload in the business, or if a number of other people are on holiday or off sick, leaving the company short staffed. In these cases, the employee can ask for a deferment of the jury service, but their employee will be called again, normally with 12 months. This may allow time to plan their time away from the business and make other arrangements for cover.

How are employees paid while on jury service? The employer does not have to pay their staff while away from the business. While employees will not be paid for jury service, they will be reimbursed subject to a maximum daily amount if absence from work causes them to lose earnings, have to pay a substitute to do their job or incur any other necessary expense, such as a childminder. People called for jury service can also claim travelling expenses, a subsistence allowance for food and drink and for any loss of National Insurance contributions they may have incurred.

As an employee, if you’re called for jury service, you could decide to use your holiday entitlement for the time that you’re away, so that you are paid for the time by your employer, rather than relying on the court subsidy. However, that is a choice you have to make, about whether or not you want to use your holiday entitlement.

I’ve made a short video about this topic ? click here to watch it and learn more about jury service.