Queries over holiday and bank holiday entitlement are common. Every year our advice line gets hundreds of calls about holidays and time off for bank holidays.

Most workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks paid annual leave and this will be calculated pro rata for part time workers but what is the situation with regards to bank holidays?

There are currently 10 normal bank holidays in Northern Ireland. By law, other holidays may be declared to celebrate special occasions. In 2011 most employers were made aware of the additional bank holiday to celebrate the Royal Wedding and 2012 brings with it yet again another additional bank holiday on 5 June to mark the Queens Diamond Jubilee.

You are probably asking yourself do I have to give my employees the time off and do I have to pay them? The starting point is simple, have a look at the wording of your employees contracts of employment as employees will not have an automatic right to be paid time off on this additional bank holiday unless their contract covers the situation. Some employee may attempt to argue that a day off should be granted for the Queens Diamond Jubilee if they were given the extra holiday for the Royal Wedding, however this one day will not give rise to a new custom and practice and this argument will not succeed. Of course, there is nothing stopping employers from granting the day off even if the contract does not allow for it.

If employees are asked to work on an extra bank holiday their right to extra pay again depends on the terms of the employee’ contract. If nothing has been confirmed in the contract the employee’s entitlement will then depend on either on what has been agreed or what has been implied via custom and practice. If the employee refuses to attend work on an extra bank holiday and there is a contractual obligation to work that day, employers can follow their disciplinary procedures.

For more information on Bank Holidays and annual leave entitlement, call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2786.