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Harriet Pestille

The Queen’s funeral bank holiday: How will it affect my employees?

Do your employees have an automatic right to time off for the Queen’s funeral on Monday? It depends on the wording of the contract of employment, as Harriet Pestille of law firm Goughs explains.

The sad news of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s passing last week has affected many and prompted a global response.

As well as the wider impact, many business owners will be wondering how the Queen’s funeral, which has been declared a national bank holiday on Monday, September 19 by His Majesty King Charles III, will apply to them.

2022 has been unusual in that we will have seen an additional two bank holidays due to unprecedented events.

We have enjoyed the additional Platinum Jubilee bank holiday and now the bank holiday to coincide with the Queen’s funeral.

Although employees may welcome any extra time off, we appreciate this has been tricky for employers to navigate.

Are your employees entitled to the bank holiday?

Remember that there is, in fact, no automatic right to time off on these days. It all depends on the contract of employment and the requirements of the business.

So, do you have to honour all of these days and does this also apply to the additional 10th day this year?

The answer is that it depends on the wording of the contract of employment.

If the contract says that an employee is entitled to bank holidays in addition to their annual leave entitlement and does not state the numbers or specific days of those bank holidays then plainly employees will be entitled to all days, whenever they may be, including the additional day for the Queen’s funeral.

If this is not possible for operational reasons, then employers should allow employees a day off in lieu at another time.

However, if the contract says that the employee is entitled to the existing eight named bank holidays or the ‘usual bank holidays’ or bank holidays are included within annual leave entitlement, then an employer will not be required to give the Queen’s funeral as an additional day of leave.

This means an employer could close on the additional day and require employees to take that day out of their existing annual leave entitlement or a business could carry on as normal and simply require staff to work.

This would be permissible however either scenario is likely to cause consternation to employees, especially in these sad circumstances.

Government guidance recently released has also confirmed that this is ‘a matter for discussion between individuals and their employer.’

Remember the Great Resignation

I suggest that employers keep in mind the recent phenomenon known as the Great Resignation, precipitated in part by the pandemic.

Employees are statistically more likely now than ever before to leave employment in the pursuit of better terms and benefits.

Businesses should heed the wise words of the Liberal MP John Lubbock, author of the Bank Holidays Act of 1871, who observed not only that ‘work was quite hard enough’ but also that holidays are ‘not unpopular with the general community.’

The Government guidance also states that they expect employers to ‘respond sensitively to requests from workers who wish to take the day of the funeral off work’.

Although the guidance is not statutory, it is recommended that employers adhere to it as closely as possible.

During a time when morale of the workforce may especially need boosting, observing this additional bank holiday could mean a great deal to employees who can then return rested and motivated having had an extra day to themselves, no matter how they choose to spend it.

Harriet Pestille is a trainee solicitor at Goughs Solicitors

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