Q- A client has told me their employees are questioning if they have to work on the upcoming bank holiday, what should I tell them?
A- As Brits we all look forward to a bank holiday, whether we take the opportunity to enjoy an extended weekend away or to catch up on some DIY around the house. Therefore, bank holiday entitlement can be a particularly emotive issue in the workplace. Whilst many organisations offer these to staff as an automatic day off, others may require employees to work during bank holidays perhaps choosing to offer enhanced pay rates as an incentive.
First of all, your client should know that despite popular belief UK employees are not legally entitled to bank holidays off work. Any decision on the matter will ultimately depend on the wording of your client’s contracts of employment. Where the contract states the employee is required to work on bank holidays they must do so, although they can use their holiday allowance to book these off as normal.
Employees who only receive the statutory minimum holiday allowance must receive a day off in lieu if they work a bank holiday.If your client’s contracts of employment fail to reference bank holidays, then it is still possible to make employees work these dates under certain circumstances.
If for example, it has been a regular and accepted practice within your client’s organisation for staff to work during bank holidays then this may be considered an implied contractual term. Under these circumstances your client may reasonably expect employees to work during bank holidays.However, your client should consider that implied terms can also work both ways.
If they have regularly allowed employees to have recent bank holidays off, without setting any clear ground rules, then this could in turn create an implied term that staff may reasonably expect not to have to work bank holidays in the future.In efforts to appease their workforce, your client could consider enhanced pay rates or allowing flexible working provisions for certain individuals who may be adversely affected by the bank holiday, such as employees struggling with childcare when schools are closed.
However, it should be noted that clients are under no statutory obligation to do so. Far from being a statutory right, it would appear the perk of having bank holidays off work is an underappreciated privilege.
Whilst clients should be able to rely on the implied terms created by past working practices, they must ensure contracts of employment are worded correctly and offer no opportunity for misinterpretation to avoid potential disputes over bank holiday working.