Alexandra Farmer - Ellis Whittam

Do employees have a right to time off on 8 May?

By Alexandra Falmer, Head of Team and Solicitor, Worknest

Many Brits enjoyed not one but two additional bank holidays in 2022: one to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee on Friday 3 June and another on 19 September, the date of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s State Funeral.

This year, a further bank holiday has been proclaimed in honour of the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III. It will fall on Monday 8 May, following the Coronation on Saturday 6 May.

With another unexpected UK public holiday approaching, business owners will yet again be left wondering whether their employees are automatically entitled to the day off. Unfortunately, it’s not a simple yes or no answer – it will all come down to the employee’s contract.

The law on working bank holidays

Unfortunately for employees, there is no statutory right to time off for bank/public holidays. However, employers may choose to include these days as part of employees’ annual leave entitlement.

Therefore, whether employees are entitled to time off on 8 May will very much depend on the specific wording of such clauses.

What do we need to look for?

Within an employee’s contract, holiday entitlement will typically be expressed as either:

X days’ holiday, plus bank holidays; or

X days’ holiday, which includes bank holidays.

This will be a key factor in whether they can take advantage of any new bank holidays.

For example, if the contract states something along the lines of:

“You are entitled to X days’ paid holiday each year. In addition, you are entitled to take public holidays.”

In this situation, because bank holidays form part of the employee’s set holiday entitlement and because you have expressly provided the public holidays in question, the employee won’t have a contractual right to the extra bank holiday in 2023.

What if we’re closed, but staff don’t have a contractual right to time off?

If you intend to shut up shop for the day and your contracts don’t give employees the right to the extra bank holiday, employers have two options.

First, you can require employees to use a day of their normal annual leave entitlement on 8 May so that they don’t miss out on a day’s pay. Employers have plenty of time to do this, as they are only required to give two days’ notice for the one day of leave, but it would make sense to get the date in the diary well in advance. We recommend confirming this in writing to avoid any issues.

Alternatively, as many did with the additional bank holidays in 2022, you could choose to permit an extra day’s paid leave as a discretionary gesture. The fact you allowed employees to take these extra days off last year doesn’t bind you to make the same decision in 2023; however, given the well-documented benefits of reward and recognition, this may pay dividends.

Concerned your contracts could come back to bite you?

Inadequate or outdated contracts can present real problems for employers, as well as expose your business to legal risk. Our Employment Law specialists know exactly what makes a good employment contract, from the essential legal requirements right down to the subtle nuances in wording that can help to protect your interests.

To ensure that yours are robust, compliant, fit for purpose and offer maximum flexibility for your organisation, email to request your free consultation.