Over the weekend, King Charles III approved a one-off national bank holiday for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral on Monday 19th September. advo HR has outlined the legal and practical considerations for UK businesses.
The 19th September will mark the final day of the period of national mourning and the UK Government has stated that that it expected many workers would be able to take the day off.
At advo, we appreciate that you may now be considering the legal position and what to do within your business when an extra bank holiday, in these circumstances, is granted and how you may approach this additional bank holiday.
Should your business determine that you do wish to regard this day as an additional day of annual leave on top of normal entitlements, something that many employers did for the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June, please be clear with employees that this is an exceptional entitlement and is not a new annual holiday.
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. So, for example, some contracts may say, for full-time employees, that the holiday entitlements is a total of 28 days, i.e. 5.6 weeks (Pro-rata for part-time employees). There may be no mention whatsoever of any public /bank holidays.
When considering your stance regarding the bank holiday on 19t September 2022, the wording on contracts regarding holidays should be the first thing to look at. If the contract specifies the exact days of normally eight bank holidays a year in England and Wales, nine in Scotland, employees would not automatically have the right to have the day off on Monday 19th September 2022. However, if the contract is quite vague and entitles employees to take leave on “all bank and public holidays”, the employer will be required to grant the extra day on 19th September 2022 as leave.
So, if having read your contract and there is no statutory right for employees to take this additional bank holiday, you do not have to necessarily grant this additional bank holiday day. However, please bear in mind, all schools will close on Monday 19th September so childcare may prove a significant consideration for those employees with children and public transport may be considerably restricted.
If you choose to close your business for the bank holiday, it is very likely that employees should receive paid leave as it is very rare for there to be a contractual clause which allows organisations to close and not provide any pay to affected employees. Alternatively, employers can enforce annual leave, as long as they give the correct notice to do so (this is double the amount of notice for the duration of the leave, e.g. two days’ notice is needed to enforce one day of annual leave).
Please don’t forget part-time employees as they would also be entitled to this additional day on a pro-rata basis and please remember that any employees on sick leave or other periods of statutory leave – such as maternity leave – should also have any additional annual leave entitlement awarded adjusted in line with the arrangements that you make for all employees.
Whatever you decide to do, you must ensure that you are fair and if you do grant an additional paid leave for full timers, this must be pro-rata’d for part-time employees, even if they are not scheduled to work on Monday 19th September 2022.
Employers should also make sure employees who are not working on the day of the funeral are considered.
It is your choice as to what you decide to do, but this is a significant event in history and we would urge our clients to consider the wider morale ramifications of requiring individuals to work on this date. Whatever you decide upon, we would strongly recommend clearly communicating your approach to all of your employees at the earliest opportunity.
Finally, recognising that the Queen’s death may be a difficult time for many is key in providing effective support for employees. Even those who are not fans of the Royal Family may be affected by her death due to associated memories and feelings that may re-surface. At such times, we would recommend empathy and support and signposting to a professional organisation may be helpful. An employee assistance programme (EAP) can provide professional counselling and support, to allow employees to effectively manage bereavement and trauma.
Please don’t hesitate to contact the advo HR team at advo if you need our services and support, we would, of course, be happy to help.