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Bank Holiday Guide for Employers

With Monday, 26th May 2014 - the second of three summer bank holidays – fast approaching, we have prepared this briefing note to assist employers to understand their obligations towards employees in relation to bank holidays and working hours.

Statutory Rights

  • There is no statutory entitlement for employees to take time off work on bank and public holidays.

Contract of Employment

  • Employers should therefore look to the contracts of employment in place within their organisations, in order to determine whether or not their employees have an entitlement to take time off on a bank holiday.
  • Some contracts of employment may state that employees have a right to time off on “all bank / public holidays”. Employers should be cautious of taking this approach in their contracts of employment, as in recent years employees with this type of contractual right have gained additional annual leave, through one off bank holidays for events such as the royal wedding and the Queen’s jubilee.
  • Other contracts of employment may specifically require employees to work on bank holidays (sometimes in return for a day off in lieu at another date), or may list specific bank holidays on which employees are entitled to time off work (for example, by listing the eight “usual” bank holidays”).
  • Employers should also take care to ensure that any other employment related documents, such as Annual Leave Policies and / or Staff Handbooks, are consistent with the entitlement set out in the employees’ contracts of employment.

No Contract of Employment?

  • For employers / employees who do not have contracts of employment, or where the position in the contracts of employment is unclear, employers are usually entitled to require their employees to work on bank holidays.
  • Employers should be aware, however, that contractual rights can be implied through custom and practice. For example, it is likely that an employee who has been permitted time off on all bank holidays for a number of years could successfully demonstrate an implied right to continue to take time off on future bank holidays.
  • Employers also should be aware that employees are entitled to a minimum of 28 days paid annual leave per year (based on an employee working full time hours). Regardless of whether those 28 days include or exclude bank holidays, employers should ensure that employees are permitted and encouraged to utilise their full statutory holiday entitlement.  
  • We advise all employers to ensure that contracts of employment are in place within their organisations, in order to ensure compliance with statutory requirements and also to avoid uncertainty over issues such as bank holidays and time off.  

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