The Working Time Regulations 1998 entitle all employees to 5.6 weeks of annual leave – that’s 28 days of paid holiday for staff working a 5 day week. However, there can be some confusion in terms of how this affects bank holidays – but it’s easily managed with the right contract and knowledge…

It’s perfectly within the law to count Bank Holidays within an employee’s annual leave entitlement or to require them to work on these days – this includes any additional bank holidays that may be provided for Royal weddings etc. However, these details should be discussed and agreed before employment commences, and make sure that you clearly state your position in your contracts of employment.

If an employee’s contract requires them to work on a bank holiday, you should ensure that they still have the chance to take their 5.6 weeks elsewhere in the leave year.

Rights, religion and requirements

There’s no statutory right for employees to have time off on Bank Holidays, and although it’s common for many workplaces to close for the period, some industries tend to remain open, such as:

  • Hospitality
  • Care
  • Retail

For workers requesting time off for religious reasons coinciding with the bank holiday, you should treat this in the same way as any other request for time off to worship. Although employees don’t have the automatic right to time off for religious festivals, they’re protected from discrimination and harassment due to their religion or belief under the Equality Act 2010 – so you should consider and treat the request fairly. You’re not required to oblige, but if you don’t, you should have a legitimate business reason for the refusal.

There’s no legal requirement to pay extra for working on a Bank Holiday either, but here are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Any additional bank holiday pay entitlement is determined by the contract of employment
  • If the contract doesn’t specify, entitlement will depend on what’s been agreed at a later date or what the employer usually does in such circumstances
  • If employees have usually been paid extra in the past, this sets a precedent that entitles the worker to be paid in the same way

Finally, if the employee is under a contractual obligation to work on bank holidays but they refuse, it can be treated as a conduct issue and action can be taken in accordance with your disciplinary procedure.