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The Coronation Bank Holiday: Are your staff entitled to time off?

We consider when staff may be entitled to leave on the additional Bank Holiday and how to deal with competing requests.

In a normal year there are eight statutory Bank Holidays in England and Wales, and nine in Scotland (although some Local Authorities in Scotland may also set ‘local’ Bank Holidays that vary from region to region).

However, very occasionally, additional holidays are granted by Royal Proclamation. Last year (2022) saw two of these ‘extraordinary’ days off; one extra day in June to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and one day in September to mark the sombre occasion of her funeral.

This year the unusual pattern continues, with an extra Bank Holiday scheduled for 8 May 2023 in honour of the Coronation of King Charles III. Exceptionally, this means that three of the five Mondays in May will be Bank Holidays across the UK.

You may already have received annual leave requests from employees looking to get away for the long weekend and may be concerned about balancing these with the need to maintain business as usual over the holiday period.

We consider when staff may be entitled to leave on the additional Bank Holiday and how to deal with competing requests.

What do your contracts say?

Employees do not have an automatic statutory right to paid time off on a bank holiday. Whether or not employees are entitled to an additional day's holiday will depend on the wording of the employment contract.

If the employment contract states that the employee's annual leave entitlement is a certain number of days plus bank holidays, they will be entitled to the additional day off.

However, if the contract states that the entitlement is to a certain number of days, and is silent on the issue of bank holidays, the employee will not be entitled to an additional day's leave.

Neither will the employee be entitled to an extra day if entitlement is expressed as a certain number of days ‘plus eight bank holidays’ or ‘plus the usual Bank Holidays in England/Wales/Scotland’. Similarly, some contracts might specify which bank holidays are included in the employee’s leave entitlement and expressly exclude others.

Of course, even where employees do not have a contractual entitlement to paid time off on the additional bank holiday, they may be use annual leave from their allocation if you are able to agree to this.

However, you might consider granting a day’s leave as a gesture of goodwill, or providing time off in lieu for employees who are required to work on that day. However, whatever discretionary benefits you choose to offer, these should be framed as a ‘one-off’ non-contractual benefit for the Coronation Bank Holiday only.

This should guard against any assumption that the same arrangements will apply on any future additional Bank Holidays, or that any contractual entitlement has been established by ‘custom and practice’ in respect of these discretionary benefits.

Too many staff want to take leave on the Coronation Bank Holiday. What should we do?

If your employees are normally required to work on bank holidays, you may receive a number competing requests to take holiday on the Coronation Bank Holiday. Employees may want to be off work at the same time as family and friends or may have childcare responsibilities for children who will be off school.

Of course, business needs may require a certain level of staffing to be maintained on the additional Bank Holiday, especially in sectors such a retail and hospitality which may be busier over the long weekend. Inevitably, some requests will have to be refused.

It is important to deal with holiday requests in a fair and consistent manner to avoid claims of discrimination or unfair treatment. Make sure you adhere to any policies or procedure you have in place covering annual leave requests, and make sure employees are aware of these.

Criteria for dealing with holiday requests should be objective, to minimise the risk that they are unfair or discriminatory (because of a protected characteristic such as sex or race). Many employers chose to determine competing requests on a ‘first come, first served’ basis as a simple, transparent solution and to encourage employees to plan ahead. You might also choose to take into account which staff have worked on previous bank holidays and give them priority this time.

While it is advisable to avoid making judgements about which requests are most ‘deserving’ it is important to maintain bit of flexibility to accommodate unforeseen or exceptional circumstances where appropriate.

If you have any questions or concerns about your organisation’s plans for the Bank Holiday period please speak to one of our employment law solicitors.