Bank holidays and employment rights

28th April 2016

With the spring and summer bank holidays approaching we set out a simple guide to employee’s rights in relation to bank holidays.

Right to time off?

Employees have no statutory right to take bank holidays off work. Their employment contract may grant them such a right, but there is no statutory entitlement to it. In industries such as catering and hospitality, working bank holidays is often the norm and it is rare to find contracts granting a right to take bank holidays off.

Right to extra pay?

Working a bank holiday does not automatically give an employee a right to additional pay for doing so. Any such right will depend on the employee’s contract, for example, a contract could provide for time and a half where an employee is required to work a bank holiday.

Right to refuse to work?

If an employee’s contract requires them to work bank holidays they cannot refuse to do so. An employee cannot refuse to work on religious grounds (some religious holidays coincide with bank holidays), although an employer should exercise caution in refusing to allow time off for religious reasons as this could be argued to be indirect discrimination.

Point to note

In 2007, the Working Time Regulations 1998 were amended to increase the annual leave entitlement from 4 weeks to 5.6 weeks entitlement for full time workers. This entitlement may or may not include bank holidays – it is up to the employer.

Prior to the increase, contracts were often worded to the effect that employees were entitled to "statutory entitlement plus bank holidays". This would have amounted to 20 days annual leave plus eight days bank holidays, however following the increase, this same wording provides an entitlement to 28 days' leave plus eight bank holidays. Employers and employees should check their contracts to see what they are entitled to, as it may be time to update these. 

Our Employment Solicitor Kate Coyer is happy to assist you with any queries you may have on this and on all aspects of employment law.