The Queen's Jubilee: are all employees entitled to the day off?

The Queen's Jubilee: are all employees entitled to the day off?

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This year, in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, marking an unprecedented 70 years on the throne, the normal spring bank holiday has been moved from the last Monday in May to Thursday 2 June. An additional Platinum Jubilee bank holiday has been declared on Friday 3 June 2022. Although many people will be expecting to enjoy a four-day weekend, some employees may be surprised to discover that they are not entitled to this ‘additional’ public holiday. We set out below what employers need to know about the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday and how they can pre-empt and mitigate any workforce issues.

No automatic right to time off on a public holiday

There are usually eight public holidays each year in England and Wales, but occasionally the government declares an extra day’s holiday to mark an occasion of national importance. In 2011, there was an additional royal wedding bank holiday on 29 April, to mark the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton. The term “public holidays” includes statutory bank holidays and the traditional holidays of Good Friday and Christmas Day, which are not strictly speaking “bank holidays”.

Contrary to popular belief, employees do not have an automatic right to time off (paid or otherwise) on a public holiday. Whether or not an employee is entitled to public holidays and to an additional public holiday will depend on the terms of their employment contract, and holiday clauses can be worded in a number of different ways. For example, some contracts will state that employees are entitled to a number of days’ annual leave “in addition to public holidays” (without limiting those public holidays to the standard eight), which will entitle them to the additional Platinum Jubilee bank holiday. On the other hand, employees whose contracts state that they will be entitled to “the usual or standard public holidays”, or which specify the number of public holidays to which they are entitled, will not be entitled to the day off on the additional public holiday. 

Risk of discrimination claims

Annual leave entitlement for full-time workers is often calculated on the basis of a set number of days in addition to public holidays. There are, however, a multitude of ways in which holiday entitlement is calculated for part-time workers, including:

  • A set number of days in addition to a pro rata equivalent number of public holidays, or
  • A set number of days inclusive of public holidays that fall on what would otherwise be the worker’s normal working days

As with full-timers, the express wording of the contract will be critical in determining whether the worker has a contractual right to the additional Platinum Jubilee bank holiday. However, regardless of any contractual entitlement, if full-time workers are entitled to the additional public holiday, employers should consider ensuring that part-time workers receive at least a pro-rata entitlement to the additional public holiday to avoid possible discrimination claims (for example, if an employee works 50% of the week, consider giving them an additional half day’s annual leave). This extends to atypical workers who may work varied days and hours; however, calculating their entitlement in respect of the additional holiday will be more complicated.

Employers should ensure that employees who are currently on family friendly or sick leave and who would be entitled to the additional public holiday if working, accrue an appropriate amount of leave to be taken upon their return.

Employers should also be alive to the fact that the standard public holidays differ across the nations of the UK. For example, Scotland has nine standard public holidays each year. Employers with staff in different parts of the UK will want to ensure that any entitlement to the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday is consistent, regardless of where the employee is based.

Requiring employees to work on the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday

Some employers, such as those in the hospitality industry or those in transport or emergency services, will need to continue operating as normal on a public holiday (or, indeed, to expect increased demand). If, after reviewing their terms and conditions of employment, it is determined that employees are entitled to the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday, employers will need to discuss this with employees and seek to agree that these employees are given an additional day of annual leave, even if the leave cannot be taken on the day itself. Care should be taken to avoid discrimination when selecting which employees are required to work on the public holiday.

There is no statutory right to enhanced pay for working on a public holiday, but employees may be entitled to additional pay, such as double or even triple pay, if this is provided for in their contracts.

Managing employees who are not entitled to the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday

If employees are not entitled to the additional public holiday, employers have three options:

  1. Require employees to work as normal (although employees would still be entitled to request annual leave on this date in the normal way using their annual leave entitlement), or
  2. Close but require employees to take the day off as part of their annual leave entitlement (employers must generally ensure that they give employees at least two days’ notice if they are requiring them to take one day’s annual leave on a specific date, but greater notice is advisable), or
  3. Close and, as a gesture of goodwill, grant employees an additional day of paid leave (on a one-off, discretionary basis)

Contractually, in these circumstances, employers are of course within their legal rights to require employees to work on Friday 3 June. However, employers should consider the employee relations ramifications of this decision and whether it could cause problems internally (for example, if employees’ contracts differ and their entitlement to the day off varies). Similarly, this course of action could damage morale in the workplace if employees are forced to work on what they view as a national holiday or if they have (wrongly) assumed that they will be given the day off work. Against the backdrop of the current war for talent in the job market, employers may want to consider the commerciality of such a decision. 

Regardless of which option is selected, employers should communicate their decision clearly and quickly (if they haven’t already), to allow employees to make any necessary arrangements and, importantly, to manage their expectations. Employers who decide to grant an additional day’s leave in circumstances where staff are not contractually entitled to such leave, should ideally make it known that this is an exercise of discretion, in order to maximise any resulting employee goodwill.

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