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How should employers deal with ad-hoc bank holidays?

By September 26, 2022Employment

This year, we have seen two additional bank holidays beyond the eight “usual” bank holidays in the UK. The additional bank holidays have taken place for the Platinum Jubilee and for the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

Whilst it has been important to take time to celebrate and reflect, the extra bank holidays will have no doubt placed an additional financial burden on businesses which are already struggling with rising costs.

It has been suggested that the King’s coronation may also be a bank holiday. Whilst the date has not yet been announced, now is a good time for employers to review its contracts to ensure that its intentions surrounding bank holidays, and any additional bank holidays, are properly reflected in the contractual documents between them and its employees.

Are employees legally entitled to take a day off work for bank holidays?

There is no legal requirement for employers to give staff the day off work for bank holidays.

Whilst there is no statutory entitlement to paid leave on bank holidays, whether an employee is entitled to the day off work on bank holidays will be guided by the contractual arrangements between employer and employee. This is also the case for days off in lieu and/or additional pay when working bank holidays.

Where a contract of employment refers to holiday entitlement being inclusive of public holidays, employers can insist that any additional bank holiday is taken as part of the employee’s current leave year entitlement.

However, where holiday entitlement provides for a set number of days’ holiday allowance plus bank holidays, employers are likely to find themselves needing to pay employees for additional bank holidays.

Where matters become uncertain is where the contract of employment refers to the “usual bank holidays”. If a bank holiday is extra and unexpected, it arguably falls outside of this category. This could leave additional bank holidays open to challenge if employers deduct this from an employee’s annual entitlement. Likewise, if provides an argument for the employer not to pay employees for additional banks holiday if an employee’s holiday entitlement is “plus the usual bank holidays”.

The interpretation of contractual provisions in employees’ contracts of employment could lead to an employer being exposed to an unlawful deduction of wages claim, and therefore it is important that it is carefully handled.

The best way to deal with this situation is to have contractual terms expressly confirming how the employer intends to deal with bank holidays (and any additional bank holidays). However, an employer should not simply change this in existing employees’ contracts, as this could constitute a change to terms and conditions.

If you require any further information or want assistance with reviewing your current contracts, please do not hesitate to contact Gemma Wilson on 0161 833 5689 or


Gemma Wilson

Author Gemma Wilson

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