Following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the government has announced a National Day of Mourning and bank holiday on Monday 19th September – the day of her funeral.
This raises several important questions for employers, like are all staff entitled to take the day off? And will businesses need to close?
To help you navigate the HR challenges during this national period of mourning, here are the answers to your most pressing questions…
Does the extra bank holiday mean my staff can take the day off?
The announcement of a bank holiday for the Queen’s funeral means staff will likely be expecting the day off. But whether they’re entitled to it or not comes down to what’s written in their contract of employment and your discretion.
You’ll need to look at specific wording. If your worker’s contract says something like they’re entitled to ‘20 days’ holiday, and all bank holidays in addition’ then they’ll be able to take off any and all bank holidays throughout the year. This includes any additional bank holidays.
But if the contract says something like ‘28 days’ holiday, including 8 bank holidays’ then your staff would not be automatically entitled to take off the extra day for the Queen’s funeral. This is because the contract specifies the number of bank holidays, and any extra days would take the employee over their allowance.
What if my staff aren’t entitled to the day off?
If your worker’s contract doesn’t entitle them to the extra day off, you may want to give them the day off anyway as a gesture of goodwill. It depends on your business needs.
Just be mindful of the impact your decision might have on staff relations. It’s important to be sensitive to your staff at this time and understand they may want to take this day off to show their respects.
What if I need my staff in work on 19th but they’re entitled to the day off?
If your worker’s contract entitles them to the day off but you need them to work on 19th, you would need to speak to them to see if they would agree to work on the day of the funeral. An incentive, like a higher pay rate, may encourage them to say yes and you’d need to give them a day off in lieu.
To regain greater control over time off on additional bank holidays, you may need to change your contracts.
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What if my employee already has the day booked off?
It might be the case that some employees already booked the 19th off. And if you're giving all staff an extra days' paid leave, an employee who has already booked it off may feel like they're missing out.
In this situation, it's best to allow your employee to cancel their leave request and use it on another day. This means all workers receive the same level of paid leave in a year.
However, if you aren't closing for the day, you won't need to do anything. It might just be the case that employees wish to cancel their leave if their plans are cancelled due to the Bank Holiday.
Will I need to close my business during the period of mourning?
During the period of national mourning, you don’t legally have to close your business, but you may decide to close or reduce your working hours.
Organisations in the public sector, like schools and local government authorities, may need to close temporarily.
If I have to close my business, how will that affect pay?
If you choose to close, you will need to provide staff with full pay while you’re closed or you’ll both need to agree for them to take annual leave. You can enforce annual leave if you give the right amount of notice.
Some businesses may have to close as they will no longer be able to carry out their work, like coach drivers due to cancelled sporting events.
If you do have to close your business, normal lay off rules will apply. Check your contracts to see if you have a shortage of work clause, and if you don’t, you’ll need to follow a consultation process.
Can I refuse annual leave requests during the mourning period?
If you work in a sector like hospitality or security, you might need to refuse annual leave requests during this time. You don’t have a legal obligation to approve all staff holiday requests, so you can decline requests if that’s what your business needs.
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What if staff ask for time off to grieve?
If your employee asks for bereavement leave, you’ll need to check their contract to see if they meet the criteria.
Usually, this type of leave is only an option if your employee has lost a close friend or family member. But regardless, you should still be sensitive if the Queen’s death is affecting any of your staff.
Even if they don’t meet the criteria for bereavement leave, you can still approve time off to staff, either paid or unpaid. And if staff take sick leave, they will need a fit note from a medical professional if they’re off for longer than seven days.
What if my employee needs to be in work but can’t find childcare?
As schools will close on 19th, your staff will need to make alternative childcare arrangements if necessary. If they can’t, you might want to allow them to work from home if they have to work on the bank holiday or request they take a day of annual leave.
Employees can take unpaid time off for dependants in cases of emergencies. However, because employees will have some planning time, this might not apply.
How can I manage staff who are late or can’t get to work?
The mourning period is likely to get busy, particularly in London where officials are predicting an influx of people coming to pay their respects. This could cause delays for those travelling to work, so you might need to make alternative arrangements.
You could allow staff to work flexibly, like starting work earlier and leaving earlier to avoid the busiest travel times. Or, you could allow them to work from home temporarily.
You should do your best to help staff who are travelling to work. But ultimately, it is still their responsibility to get themselves to work on time.
How else can I support staff during this time?
The Queen’s death is likely to have an impact on many workers and might bring up a lot of difficult feelings.
To help support your staff during this time, you might want to direct them towards your employee assistance programme (EAP) which provides professional counselling, a 24-hour helpline and wellbeing resources. Or, if you don’t currently have an EAP service, consider setting one up.
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Got more questions? Speak to a HR expert
If you’re unsure of how to manage your business and staff during this difficult time, give us a call on 0800 028 2420 to talk things through with a HR expert.
They’ll make sure you take the right steps to minimise disruption and safeguard your workers.