New 'Thank Holiday': An extra addition to the HR calendar?

In commemoration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, there is to be an additional bank holiday this year on Friday 3 June. However, business leaders are calling for an extra bank holiday to become a permanent fixture in the HR calendar. At the moment, the UK are amongst the lowest providers of public holidays, with England and Wales entitling workers to eight despite the average in the European Union being eleven. At a time where employers are struggling with high absence levels and unmotivated workforces, the provision of an extra paid day of leave each year could be an effective morale boost, whilst also helping improve the economy post-Covid.

A new “Thank Holiday” would be in recognition of the Queen’s extraordinary service, as well as the hard work shown by all workers throughout the Covid pandemic. It is hoped this extra day of celebration would allow the opportunity for individuals and communities together, to honour and thank those who have contributed towards making the UK a better place to live.

The proposal has been backed by industry experts and is currently with the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, for consideration. The exact details of the proposal, such as the date of the additional holiday, is yet to be confirmed. However, some have highlighted that organising it to fall on a Friday would have a lesser impact on business operations since, typically, employees tend to organise their roles so that they can finish early, have a day off or have a reduced workload on a Friday.

The additional day would be of significant benefit to businesses in the hospitality, tourism and retail industries, who have faced extreme difficulties over the past two years as a result of the Covid pandemic. The extra day would provide a much-needed economic boost to the hardest hit whilst simultaneously improving social interaction to support positive mental health.

However, if approved, employers will have to consider how the extra day will work in practice. There is no automatic right to additional paid holiday above the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks (28 days) per year. As such, businesses could refuse to provide this. Although, it is useful to weigh up the benefits against perceived costs, as it may provide more cost-effective in the long-term due to savings made from decreased absences and improve motivation and productivity.

Similarly, employers could choose to allow the extra day but request that this is taken later in the holiday year. This is commonplace for organisations who experience a surge in demand during public holidays, such as restaurants and bars, so need extra staff in to cover. Essentially, employees in this situation would see an increase in their annual entitlement to 29 days but would follow the normal booking procedure to request time off. Equally, employers who won’t be busy so want staff to be off, could require them to take one day’s leave. However, to do so, this must give double the amount of notice (e.g. two days).

Regardless of the approach taken, employers should ensure contracts are updated accordingly, to clearly outline employees’ entitlements in this regard.
We await the decision of Rishi Sunak with fingers crossed that it will be passed!

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