Following the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II, the UK has gone into a 12-day period of mourning, with the State Funeral being held on the last day, Monday 19 September 2022. It has since been announced during the proclamation of King Charles III that this day will be a National Bank Holiday, to allow individuals, businesses, and other organisations to participate in paying their respects. But what does this mean for employers and employees?
Are workers automatically entitled to the additional bank holiday on the day of the State Funeral?
There is no statutory entitlement for workers to have time off for bank holidays; they may be required to work, or their employer may agree they can take bank holidays off as paid leave. This is a matter for agreement with the employer and should (and ordinarily is) set out in the contract of employment. Matters which are also down to the discretion of employers include:
- Whether an employee will be paid extra for working the bank holiday
- Whether an employee can take time in lieu of working the bank holiday
- Whether, if annual leave has been booked over the announced date, this can be reclaimed.
In November 2021, the UK Government announced that an additional bank holiday would be granted to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. This took place on Friday 3 June 2022. With the news of the State Funeral being made a Bank Holiday, the UK will have 10 bank holidays, as opposed to the usual 8.
Bank holidays have also been previously granted for the royal wedding in 2011 and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
The government has issued some brief guidance on the State Funeral. It largely explains that leave arrangements for Monday 19 September are to be discussed between employers and employees. While a similar discussion may have come up recently with the Jubilee bank holiday, and employers and employees may follow suit, it is important that employers and employees revisit the wording of their employment contracts to determine if they are automatically entitled to paid time off for additional bank holidays such as the State Funeral. For example, if the contract states that a worker is entitled to annual leave comprising “20 days plus the usual bank holidays”, this would not automatically entitle an employee to have paid time off for the State Funeral; the holiday not forming the “usual” 8 bank holidays in the year. If the contract states “28 days per year including bank holidays”, again the worker would have no right to paid time off. Whereas, if the contract states “20 days plus bank holidays” this would grant the worker the right to time off for the State Funeral given that the worker has an entitlement to paid time off on all bank holidays, including any which are additional to the usual dates. This may be an important consideration for both employees and employers again soon, as at time of writing this article, it is yet to be decided whether the Coronation of King Charles III will be made a bank holiday. It is important for employers and workers alike to take stock of their entitlements, and any contractual changes needed to give a right to the extra day if desired and to update any holiday policies.
If the contract is silent on bank holidays or the employer is considering using its discretion to grant leave as goodwill (where otherwise the worker has no right to it), employers should be mindful of business needs and the fair and equal treatment of its workers. Due consideration should be made for the cost of granting any additional leave to workers (though it should be a manageable one), with the damage that may be caused to goodwill and relations for workers by refusing to, especially if the business closes on this day. Some employees will face practical childcare issues around the closure of schools on the day of the State Funeral. Reputationally, businesses which do not recognise the State Funeral as a bank holiday may draw unwanted or negative external comment. If there is no contractual entitlement to the State Funeral off, employers may want to close but require employees to take this day off out of their remaining statutory leave entitlements (rather than granting this on top of current entitlement). This is fine and legal – so long as the employer gives at least two days’ notice to the employee that they must take one day’s leave on Monday 19 September. It would be sensible to make clear that this day off will be deducted from existing entitlements and is not an extra day off. Whatever the decision,, it is good practice for an employer to communicate in advance and to give notice to workers of their entitlement (or not) to this additional bank holiday.
Employers should remember that workers on maternity leave continue to accrue annual leave and may, depending on the wording of their contract be entitled to an extra day’s leave for the extra bank holiday (if the contract provides for it) when calculating accrued annual leave due to them for 2022. Part-time employees who do not normally work on a Monday may ask for an additional day of holiday if their full-time colleagues (or part-time colleagues who do work on a Monday) are granted the additional bank holiday. Part-time employees are protected in law from suffering a detriment due to their part-time status (and/or any caring responsibilities they may have, if applicable) and women on maternity leave are protected from discrimination. Therefore, even if the contract wording does not entitle the employee to have the extra bank holiday, employers should consider the impact on all workers equally and may choose to grant the extra day to everyone to eliminate the risk of complaints and legal liability for claims.
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