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Are employees entitled to an extra bank holiday for The Queen's funeral?

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Are employees entitled to a day off for The Queens funeral?

Following the news of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, the government has announced that the day of her funeral, 19th September 2022, will be a national bank holiday.

The government has issued guidance to say that the day will operate in the same way as a national bank holiday, however, given that employees have no automatic statutory entitlement to paid time off for bank holidays, whether or not an employee will be entitled to a day off work on 19th September, will depend upon their individual contractual rights. Employers may also need to exercise an element of discretion when making decisions regarding this, whilst keeping in mind the various logistical issues that may come in to play.

The statutory position

Generally, employers are required to offer their employees a holiday entitlement of 28 days’ (to meet the statuary minimum). However, there is no legal obligation on employers to offer bank holidays to employees as paid leave. Usually, the position in relation to this will be outlined within employees’ contracts of employment.

Some organisations may be unable to guarantee their employees leave for bank holidays for a number of reasons, for example in the emergency services sector where staffing on bank holidays is essential.

Contractual rights

An employee’s entitlement to annual leave will usually be specified within a clause in their employment contract. This clause is likely to also make reference to their entitlement to paid leave for bank holidays.

There are several different forms these clauses can take. For example, a contract may specify that an employee is entitled to 20 days’ annual leave, plus the ‘usual’ bank holidays (eight days) or, that they are entitled to 28 days annual leave, including the usual bank holidays. In these circumstances, employers will not be contractually obliged to offer employees paid leave for any additional bank holidays outside of the usual eight days (such as the Queen’s funeral).

However, it is also common for employees to be guaranteed paid leave for all UK bank holidays (not limited to the usual eight days) within their contracts. In this case, employers will likely be required to offer paid leave for the additional bank holiday.

Regardless of an employee’s contractual entitlement to paid leave for additional bank holidays, employers can exercise discretion in this regard. For example, employers can decide themselves whether to grant an additional days’ paid leave or they can ask for staff to utilise their existing annual leave entitlement, if they wish to take the day off.  For example, many retailers in the UK, will be closed on 19th September and have therefore agreed to grant additional paid leave to their employees, to cover the bank holiday for the Queen’s funeral.

Regardless of the stance taken by employers, overall, it is important that employers approach discussions with their employees sensitively, particularly given that many have been incredibly disheartened by the Queen’s death.

If you require advice regarding any employment dispute, or if you require HR assistance, and would like more information, you can speak to a member of our team on 0161 696 6170.