Working on bank holidays

Working bank holidays

The first thing to point out about working bank holidays is the statutory position; bank holidays are part of your annual leave, if your workplace is closed. Many people automatically assume that public holidays are in addition to their holiday entitlement. In reality, many employers will enhance their employee holiday entitlement but this is a voluntary option not a legal obligation.

Who decides if you work bank holidays?

There are many industries which are open as normal throughout the year, even on bank holidays and other public holidays. Your employment contract will dictate whether you are obliged to work on bank holidays. If your place of work is closed on bank holiday-rights/public holidays then your employer can insist that you take these days as part of your holiday entitlement.

While the statutory position is clear, in reality there are a number of factors to take into consideration as to how this may be addressed as part of your employment contract.

Checking your employment contract

The large majority of employment contracts will address the issue of bank holidays/public holidays and employee holiday entitlement. Normally there will be a section covering holidays, holiday entitlement or annual leave. The more traditional wording might include such phrases as:-

  • In addition to bank and public holidays, your annual holiday entitlement is X days. This means that that bank and public holidays are in addition to your contractual holiday entitlement.
  • Your annual holiday entitlement is X days (inclusive of bank and public holidays). In this scenario, public and bank holidays are incorporated in your contractual holiday entitlement.

Whether or not your employer includes or excludes bank and public holidays from your holiday entitlement, they still need to abide by the statutory holiday entitlement regulations. The current statutory regulations are as follows:-

Normal working week Paid holiday entitlement per annum
5 or more 28 days
4 22.4 days
3 16.8 days
2 11.2 days
1 5.6 days

If your holiday entitlement is not part of your employment contract, it must be available elsewhere. It is probably sensible to approach your HR Department and ask for confirmation for your records. On the rare occasion there is no mention of your holiday entitlement, either verbally, elsewhere or as part of your contract, you should clarify this as soon as possible.

What if you don’t have an employment contract?

When you initially accept an employment position it may be some time before you receive a formal employment contract. It is worth noting that a verbal employment contract is as powerful in the courts as a written employment contract. They both have the same legal standing. Obviously, it is easier for all parties, and a way of avoiding confusion, if there is a written employment contract.

While many people are often secretive about their salaries and employment contracts, the issue of holidays and working bank holidays in particular should be the same across the workforce. So, if your holiday entitlement is not clear or you are awaiting written confirmation of your employment terms and conditions, speak to your colleagues. Ask them the situation regarding holidays just to make sure that you are being treated in a similar fashion.

It is dangerous to assume when you are unsure and more sensible to clarify the position as soon as possible with your employer.

Bank holidays, annual leave and full-time workers

When it comes to annual leave, bank holidays will be either:-

  • Part of your overall holiday entitlement
  • In addition to your contractual annual leave

If there is no specific mention of bank holidays then in a worst-case scenario assume that bank holidays/public holidays are part of your overall holiday entitlement. So, if we assume that you are a full-time worker entitled to 28 days annual leave, eight days of this leave may be allocated for bank holidays. This leaves a net 20 days annual leave excluding bank holidays.

Bank holidays, annual leave and part-time workers

If you are a part-time worker, working two days a week, you are entitled to statutory annual leave of 11.2 days. If we concentrate on the four Monday bank holidays of the year, your situation will vary depending upon your working week.

  • If you normally work on a Mondays and Tuesdays, then you would need to take each bank holiday Monday as paid holiday. This would effectively reduce your entitlement from 11.2 days per year down to 7.2 days per year.
  • If you worked on a Tuesday and Wednesday, then each of the Monday bank holidays would have no impact on your working life/holiday entitlement. There would be no forced holidays so you would still have 11.2 days per annum.

There is nothing to stop an employee and employer making alternative arrangements for those who would normally work on Monday bank holidays. For example, you may agree to work Tuesdays and Wednesdays on bank holiday weeks, as opposed to Mondays and Tuesdays. In this scenario, you would retain these additional days holiday out of your entitlement.

It is important to be aware of the statutory position regarding working on bank holidays and annual leave, but this does not stop direct negotiation between employers and employees.

Resolving issues with your employer

While the rules and regulations regarding working bank holidays and holiday entitlement are fairly straightforward, on occasion there are disputes. It is always sensible to be mindful of the impact on your long-term working relationship, while balancing this with your statutory rights. So, how should you address issues regarding your holiday entitlement?

Approach your employer on an informal basis

The first course of action is always an informal discussion with your employer. This gives you the opportunity to highlight your issues and request clarification from your employer. It may be that they have overlooked part of their regulatory obligations or they may simply disagree with your reading of the situation.

The majority of issues tend to be resolved on an informal basis although you can move to the next stage if you are not happy with their response.

Raising a grievance

If you believe that you have been wronged with regards to your holiday entitlement, and you have evidence to prove this, your next option is a formal grievance. While this is not the preferred route, on occasion you will have no option. When raising a formal grievance this tends to bring more company individuals into the situation, perhaps a company director, etc. It might be that a different set of eyes may spot something missed during the informal discussions.

Unfortunately, on occasion there will be employers who are simply reluctant to give you your full statutory holiday entitlement. If a formal grievance does not bring you the expected results, you should take professional advice.

Taking professional advice

If both informal and formal attempts to agree a resolution have failed, you may need to take professional advice. Initially this would likely involve some form of employment tribunal and then legal action if no agreement was forthcoming. The further down the line you get with regards to potential resolutions, the greater the onus on you to provide clear concise evidence.

We have seen occasions where disagreements regarding holiday entitlement have led to the breakdown of the long-term working relationship between employers and employees. However, it is important to note that your employer is not allowed to “treat you differently” or hold it against you, if you pursue your statutory rights. Failure to honour this employee protection could lead to further action against your employer.

Clarity is the key with holiday entitlements

Whether or not bank holidays are part of your overall holiday entitlement should be made clear at the outset of your employment. If for some reason your employer has not provided these details, or you are unsure about the information provided, you can request confirmation. The statutory framework surrounding holiday entitlement, bank holidays and public holidays is fairly clear and straightforward.

Hopefully, any disagreements/misunderstandings about working bank holidays can be addressed on an informal basis, but there are additional options for employees.