With the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the country is set to mark the occasion of her funeral with a bank holiday. This seemingly universal day off has been granted to allow the country to mourn and observe the state funeral of the longest-serving monarch in British history.

guidance on bank holiday rules for queen’s funeral

For employers, the occasion may present a conundrum. Many are keen to allow their staff to mark the occasion but want to understand what their legal obligations are. Do they need to grant an extra day’s leave to everyone? What about those who don’t usually work on a Monday, the day of the bank holiday? What if they want to grant an additional day off but are cautious about setting precedents? There are plenty of considerations at play for such a seemingly simple thing.

What does the law say?

Under UK law, all full-time employees are entitled to a minimum of 28 days of annual leave each year. This right is typically reflected in the employee’s contract of employment – and can be given pro rata for those not working full time hours.

This right can be expressed in a variety of ways and whether an employer will be contractually obliged to give an extra day of holiday for the Queen’s funeral will all come down to the wording in the contract.

Why wording matters

Many people will find that their contract specifies a set number of days’ holiday, including bank holidays – meaning that the employer will not be required to give them the day off. But, if an employee’s contract specifies, for example, ‘21 days holiday per annum, plus all bank and public holidays’, their employer is legally obliged to give them the day off because the contract does not restrict the number of bank/public holidays.

However, if a contract lists out the specific bank holidays included in an employee’s annual entitlement (i.e., Christmas Day, Easter Monday etc), or provides for bank holidays ‘usually observed’ in England and Wales, then the employer does not need to grant the Queen’s funeral as an additional day off.

Furthermore, if the clause reads 20 days annual leave per year, plus eight bank holidays, then the employee will be able to choose to take this bank holiday but it will be at the expense of another bank holiday at some other point in the year: the employee will not be entitled to receive an extra day of leave.

What if employees don’t usually work on a Monday?

If your business doesn’t trade on a Monday, or if you have employees who don’t usually work on a Monday – for example because they work part-time hours – then again, the wording in your contract is important.

Your part-time employees may have a clause specifying a pro-rata number of bank holidays. Again, in this case they can choose to add a day’s leave, but it would be at the expense of another bank holiday.

If your business does not usually trade on a Monday – like many high street businesses – then you will need to investigate your contractual wording to see if bank holidays ‘roll over’ or can be carried forward onto a normal working day.

What if I want to offer the day off regardless?

There is nothing to stop employers from offering the day off no matter what the contractual wording says, and I anticipate that many businesses will take this approach regardless of their contracts with staff. If this approach is adopted, employers should clarify in writing that the extra day is for 2022 only, to avoid setting a precedent for the future, whilst ensuring any part-time workers do not suffer less favourable treatment due to the granting of the additional day’s leave

From a team goodwill point alone, it may well be worth offering this additional day off regardless of what your contracts say.

There may also be reputational issues to consider, as your customers may expect that you close your business out of respect and feel that it is inappropriate for you to remain open. Conversely, the opposite may be true and they – and you – may feel that it’s right for your business to continue to trade.

Whatever you decide, it is worthwhile taking advice from a legal expert to make sure that you get it right.

Keyword: Guidance on bank holiday rules for Queen’s funeral

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