Wedding bank holiday disputes

Published:  16 March, 2011

MANCHESTER: Small firms are being urged to check their staff contracts to prevent misunderstandings around the Royal wedding bank holiday and the Easter period warns legal firm, Mace and Jones.

Employers are confused about staff rights around bank holidays. Martin Edwards, head of employment law at Mace and Jones, said some bosses feel they are being bowled a googly by the additional bank holiday for the Royal wedding on 29 April that follows on from the unusually late Easter.

This will mean the back end of April will see four bank holidays in 11 days. For most workers, this would mean a four-day week followed by a three-day week.

Mr Edwards said businesses need to be fully staffed to cope with, and benefit from, the much-needed commercial boost of having so many of the population off work.

"One of the main questions we are being asked is whether employees have to be given the extra day off," he said. "In England and Wales there is no automatic right for an employee to have the day off on a bank holiday - whether they can or not will depend on their contract of employment. In the same way, if employees do work on a bank holiday their pay for the day will depend on their contract, as there is no statutory right to overtime or time off in lieu," he said.

The legislation explained

The statutory minimum holiday entitlement under the Working Time Regulations 1998 has increased over the past few years and currently stands at 5.6 weeks a year. This equates to 20 days plus the usual eight annual bank holidays for many full-time employees, and employers should have adopted wording to reflect this in their written contracts of employment, he said.

"The position of employers will very much depend on the exact wording of a contract," he said. "If, for example, it says that the holiday entitlement is "23 days plus bank holidays" then the employer is likely to have to give the employee a day's paid leave on 29 April. If, however, it says "28 days including bank holidays" then there will be no extra entitlement."

Edwards urged employers to look closely on the impact on part time staff. "The legal default is that part time workers are entitled to bank holidays in proportion to the hours worked in their contract. So, a worker on a 0.5 contract is entitled to 0.5 day for the bank holiday or staff who work a four-hour shift will be entitled to four hours off in lieu. There is particularly a problem for part time workers who work Mondays, as most bank holidays fall on a Monday. The simplest and fairest answer is to treat all the workers the same, provided that they receive their entitled pro rata bank holiday."

"Employers will also be keen to know where they stand in relation to paying staff who do work on the extra bank holiday. As with any bank holiday, an employee's pay for the day will depend on the wording of their contract, as there is no statutory right to additional pay or time off in lieu. Many organisations do, however, have agreed rates for working on bank holidays, such as double time, and these should be applied as normal. The best advice for employers is to be prepared - check your contracts of employment and take advice as appropriate, he said.

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