Following calls from UK tourism agency Visit Britain, the new public holiday would potentially take place around October half-term of this year.
With the coronavirus pandemic causing lockdowns and the furloughing of staff across the country, many may be forgiven for forgetting about the bank holidays over the last few weeks. Visit Britain’s acting head, Patricia Yates, has stated that the tourism industry has essentially “lost” two bank holidays in May due to the lockdown.
Yates argues that permitting an additional bank holiday in October would help the tourism industry to extend the season and ultimately try to recover some of the losses seen in 2020. Downing Street is currently said to be considering the proposal; however, a spokesperson has admitted that “it is worth acknowledging that extra bank holidays come with additional costs”. They are expected to respond to this “in due course”.
While further commentary is expected from the Government, organisations may be nervous at this news, especially if they have been forced to close or seen business decrease during the lockdown. There is no automatic right to take bank holidays off work and whether organisations will need to permit staff to take this time off, should it be confirmed, will depend upon their contracts of employment.
Where contracts state employees are entitled to time off on “all bank holidays”, without expressing particular dates, they will be contractually entitled to take this extra day. On the other hand, organisations whose contract specifically states bank holiday dates that can be taken off, will not automatically need to permit this. In this situation, staff can be expected to attend work as normal.
Even where employees are not contractually entitled to have the day off, organisations may choose to allow them to take it as paid leave or unpaid leave, or permit them to work the time back at a later date. As 2020’s coronavirus crisis has likely been very challenging on a workforce, taking this action may be a good way of maintaining morale and productivity, especially if competitor organisations do decide to permit time off during an additional Bank Holiday.
Last reviewed 21 May 2020