The UK’s longest-reigning monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, has passed away, leaving the nation and people across the world in mourning. The Government has now confirmed that Monday, 19 September 2022, will be a national public holiday (otherwise known as a “bank holiday”) to coincide with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s State Funeral. The bank holiday will mark the last day of the period of national mourning.
The bank holiday will allow individuals and organisations to pay their respects to Her Majesty and commemorate her reign. The bank holiday will operate in the same manner as any other bank holiday.
From an employment perspective, despite the Government’s announcement, there is no automatic statutory or contractual right for employees to take the day off work for this extra bank holiday. Whether employees are entitled to the additional bank holiday depends on the terms of their contract of employment, and holiday clauses can be worded in a number of different ways.
The contract of employment
If your organisation will be closing for the bank holiday, you need to think carefully about how you will manage leave. To understand if workers are entitled to time off over the bank holiday, you must look at how your employment contracts are drafted.
For full-time workers, if the contract of employment provides that a worker is “entitled to 28 days’ annual leave including bank holidays,” then there is no right to the additional bank holiday. Alternatively, if the wording says something like “you are entitled to 20 days’ annual leave plus bank holidays,” then the employee arguably has the right to an additional bank holiday on 19 September 2022.
The same approach applies to part-time workers. But what if the holiday in question falls on a day on which the worker would otherwise normally be at work? Employers are at risk of treating part-time employees unfairly if they give a bank holiday to those who happen to be working on that bank holiday. One way of achieving equality is to give part-time workers a pro-rata entitlement to public holidays, regardless of the day they work.
For other types of working arrangements, the contract also should be the starting point.
A decision for management
If you determine that workers are not entitled to the additional bank holiday, you have three options:
- Require workers to work as normal.
While your organisation may be within its legal rights to require staff to work, such a decision may cause employee relations issues. In light of a potential decrease in morale and productivity on the day of the bank holiday, and against the backdrop of current trends in “quiet quitting”, the war for talent and rise in the cost of living, there may well be a commercial decision to be made against choosing this option. For many industries, businesses will need to continue operating as normal and, in these circumstances, employers would be encouraged to try to boost morale on the day in other ways.
- Close but require workers to take the day as annual leave.
If your organisation decides against giving workers an extra day’s paid holiday, but closes for the bank holiday, you will need to give sufficient notice that the company will be closing and that employees will be required to take a day’s leave out of their annual leave entitlement. Remember that employers must give twice the amount of leave intended to be taken, i.e., two days’ notice to take one day’s holiday.
- Close and grant workers an additional day of annual leave.
Clearly, for employees, this option would be the most favourable. If your organisation can absorb the giving of an extra day’s paid leave, this would build employee goodwill during this difficult time. It should be clearly communicated to the workforce that this decision is an exceptional one-off to mark a unique national moment and is provided on a strictly discretionary basis.
Remember that mourning is a deeply personal experience for each person concerned. Individuals and businesses may wish to observe this period of time in their own way. If you are not anticipating closing your business for the State Funeral, please bear in mind that employees may wish to take time away in any case and employers will be expected to respond sensitively to requests from workers who wish to take the day of the funeral off work.
Now that we know that 19 September 2022 will be a bank holiday, and that schools will also be closing during that time, it will be essential for employers to plan ahead and communicate their plans to the workforce as soon as possible. Good communication, empathy and flexibility seem to us to be key here during this period.