Bank Holidays: Legal Requirement or Not?

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis


13 Mar 2019


Do you need to give your staff days off on bank holidays? Do you have to pay them extra if they want to work? And should you prioritise Christian workers or staff with kids when approving annual leave this Easter? Read on to find out the answers…

Five facts you need to know this bank holiday 

Your staff don’t automatically get time off

There’s no statutory right to time off on a bank holiday. All workers must get 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave each year, but when you allow them to take it is up to you.

But it’s not quite as simple as it sounds (employment law never is). You need to be fair to your staff when they request holidays. And not just because you’re a good boss.

There’s a big legal risk to your business if you treat some workers’ requests for annual leave more favourably than others. We’ll explain why, and how to avoid it, shortly…

You don’t need to pay staff extra

You might reward staff for working on bank holidays by paying them extra. But there’s no rule saying you have to. How much you pay your staff is up to you.  

Many businesses offer extra pay for bank holidays as an incentive to get staff to work. Because let’s face it, you don’t really want to force an unhappy worker to cover the Easter period. But make sure you state any bonuses, including extra pay for bank holidays, in your staff’s contracts.

You can make your staff take annual leave

If you close down over Easter, you can force your workers to use annual leave while your business is shut. But you need to give staff twice as much notice as the time you want them to take off.  

So, to force staff to take one week of holiday, you would have to give two weeks’ notice. And if you want staff to take paid holiday on Good Friday and Easter Monday, the latest you can tell them this year is Monday the 15th of April.

But you can avoid the hassle of giving notice by putting a holiday policy in place stating that staff must reserve annual leave to take over Easter. More on that later…

You can’t prioritise holiday requests from certain staff

Around Easter, you might think that you should prioritise annual leave requests from staff with religious beliefs or who have school-age children. But you can’t do that, because it would discriminate against your childless or non-religious workers.

So should you make all staff work over Easter? Not really, unless you have a very strong business reason to do so.

Because an annual leave policy that forbids staff holiday on particular days could affect certain groups of people more than others. For example, Christians that want to take time to worship on Easter Monday are going to be more affected by your policy than workers of a different religion.   

You need to write watertight annual leave policies and contracts

Your policies and contracts help prevent you from breaking employment laws. And not just over bank holidays but all year round.

Your contracts and policies should cover:

  • How much holiday your staff get.
  • Whether you pay staff extra for working certain days.
  • How staff can book annual leave and what notice they need to give you.
  • What days staff need to reserve holiday for.
  • Whether staff can carry over leave at the end of the year. What restrictions you have on annual leave.

Of course, that’s easier said than done.

Get expert advice this easter 

Statutory holiday leave and pay can be difficult to calculate, especially if you have temporary or part-time workers. And what counts as a ‘legitimate business reason’ for restricting holiday is a grey area of employment law. So you should probably seek legal advice if you want to dictate when and how staff take annual leave.

But that doesn’t mean you need to call your solicitor every Easter. Croner offers an advice service to help businesses tackle holiday leave and employment law issues. And if you want, we can even write your annual leave policies and contracts for you, too.

Speak to an employment law expert today on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is the senior manager of the Litigation and Employment Department and assumes additional responsibility for managing Croner’s office based telephone HR advisory teams, who specialise in Employment law, HR and Commercial Legal advice for large organisations across the United Kingdom.


Andrew Willis

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