Last reviewed 7 April 2020

Should employers give staff days off on bank holidays? Do employers have to pay staff extra if they want to work? And should Christian workers or staff with kids be prioritised when approving annual leave this Easter? See our article below for some facts you need to know this bank holiday.

1. Automatic time off

There is no statutory right to time off on a bank holiday. All workers must receive 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave each year, but it is up to an employer for when they are allowed to take those days off. It is important that employers are fair to staff when holidays are requested as there is a big risk if some workers’ requests for annual leave are treated more favourably than others.

2. Extra pay entitlements

Employers may reward staff for working on bank holidays by paying them extra, but there is no rule that they should, as how much you pay your staff is up to you. Many businesses offer extra pay for bank holidays as an incentive to encourage staff to work those days. Ensure that any bonuses, including extra pay for bank holidays, are stated in staff contracts.

3. Forced annual leave

If an organisation closes over Easter, employers can force workers to use annual leave while the organisation is shut. Bear in mind that staff must be given twice as much notice as the time period that they are forced off work.

So, to force staff to take one week of holiday, employers would need to give two weeks’ notice.

4. Prioritising holiday requests

Around Easter, employers may think that they should prioritise annual leave requests from staff with religious beliefs or those who have school-age children, but this would result in discrimination against childless or non-religious workers.

5. Annual leave policies and contracts

Strict policies and contracts will ensure employers are compliant with employment law. Contracts and policies should cover:

  • holiday entitlement

  • extra pay for working certain days

  • annual leave requests and notice required for requesting

  • days staff need to reserve holiday for (if applicable)

  • restrictions on annual leave and policies on carrying over leave.

2020 bank holidays

Many employers will already know that 2020 is a leap year, meaning that, for the first time since 2016, February contained an extra day. However, usually falling on the first Monday in May, 2020’s Early May Bank Holiday has been officially changed to take place a few days later on Friday 8 May in order to mark the 75th anniversary of VE day.

Some contracts may simply give employees an entitlement to time off on all bank holidays, or on “Early May Bank Holiday”, without giving any more detail. In this situation, they would be entitled to take a period of paid leave on the Friday, instead of the Monday. Therefore, employers should check the wording of workers’ terms and conditions to determine their position.

Furthermore, in December, Boxing Day falls on a Saturday and the corresponding bank holiday is to be moved to the next working day — Monday 28 December. This means that all employees who are contractually entitled to take Boxing Day off work will therefore have the right to take this on the Monday.

Expert advice

Can employers force staff to work over bank holidays? No, unless there is a very strong business reason to do so. Statutory holiday leave and pay can be difficult to calculate, especially if you have temporary or part-time workers. What counts as a “legitimate business reason” for restricting holiday is a grey area of employment law. To speak with an HR advisor for advice on any of the above topics, or for any other employment law guidance, call our advice line on 0844 561 8149.