Bank Holiday entitlement

04 May 2023

There are normally eight bank holidays a year in England and Wales, nine in Scotland, and 10 in Northern Ireland. However, in recent years with extra bank holidays being granted for the Platinum Jubilee and Queen Elizabeth’s funeral it can be difficult to ascertain employees’ entitlements and what an employer can require.

Holiday Entitlement

The Working Time Regulations 1998 entitles employees to a 5.6-week minimum Holiday entitlement, this equates to 28 days for a full-time employee and should be pro-rata’d for any part-time employees.

However, the Working Time Regulations 1998 do not differentiate between bank holidays and other days and do not prevent employers from including them in the 5.6-week minimum annual leave entitlement.

bank holidays will be either:-

  • Part of your overall holiday entitlement, or
  • In addition to your contractual annual leave

Which applies will depend on your contract either expressly in writing or through custom and practice. If in doubt you should review any written contract to see whether holiday are ’28 days inclusive of bank holidays’ or words to similar effect.

If there is no specific mention of bank holidays then it can be assumed that bank holidays/public holidays are part of the overall holiday entitlement unless this is contrary to custom and practice.

Are employees entitled to time off for bank holiday or to extra pay if they are required to work?

There is no automatic right to time off for bank holidays, neither is there a statutory right to any extra pay if employees are required to work a bank holiday.  

As an employer you can require employees to take their holidays at certain times, provided they are given sufficient notice.  Alternatively, you can also refuse any holiday requests provided an employee is offered a suitable alternative period. Employees are only entitled to take bank holidays automatically and/or extra pay for working if these rights are incorporated into their contract either expressly in writing or through custom and practice.

What about my Part time workers?

You are required to ensure that that part-time employees are not treated less favourably than full-time employees. Where your contracted holiday is inclusive of bank holidays then whether or not the part-time employees work bank holidays they will be treated fairly as all employees will receive the same holidays.

Where your holidays are exclusive of bank holidays then you should give your part-time workers a pro rata entitlement to bank holidays according to the number of hours that the part-time employee works, irrespective of whether or not they usually work on the days on which those public holidays fall to avoid the risk of less favourable treatment compared to full-time workers in breach of the Part-time Workers Regulations 2000.

In Conclusion.

Your contract should be clear as to whether an employees holiday includes bank holidays or whether it is given in addition to bank holidays. If the contract states it is 28 days inclusive of bank holidays, then no matter how many extra bank holidays are given then the holiday entitlement will never get beyond 28 days.  Where the contract is 20 days plus bank holidays, then any additional bank holidays will entitle employees to an extra paid day’s holiday, but only in that year.

If your contract is not clear, then you will have to remain consistent with any previous custom and practice.

Please note that this advice is general in nature. As a MILS member you have access to the MILS Legal advice line, as well as a number of industry experts for your assistance. Should you find yourself in the situation above, contact us at any stage for advice and assistance as appropriate.