Photo of a calendar on a desk.What are bank holidays?

The very first bank holidays in the UK were introduced in 1821 and included holidays to celebrate royal events and Christian festivals such as Easter. The days were confirmed as 18 days a year in 1830 and then reduced to four in 1934. 

The term is quite literally days on which the banks close, and the Bank Holidays Act 1871 ensured no penalties were issued for any delays to financial dealings. The Bank Holidays Bill was drafted in 1871.

There is a distinction between ‘bank’ holidays and ‘public’ holidays.  The first were created under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1071 and were days specifically listed in the Act or any royally proclaimed. ‘Public’ holidays are those in common law, such as Christmas Day and Good Friday. 

UK bank holidays are shown on the Government website which denotes dates for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Bank Holiday announcement for 8th May 2023

The usual bank holidays (not in 2022!) in England and Wales are currently eight, nine in Scotland and 10 in Northern Ireland. A further bank holiday has been announced for 2023 and many of us will automatically assume we get a day off. However, there is no statutory right to the day off on a bank holiday.

King Charles III’s Coronation will take place on Saturday 6th May 2023 at Westminster Abbey and following this, Monday 8th May 2023 will be declared a Bank Holiday in England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

A ‘bank holiday’ does not meant everyone automatically gets a day off work, unless the employment contract allows for it.

What to do now

Check your employment contracts – it really depends on what this says. If it states your employees are entitled to all bank holidays in addition to their usual holiday, they are then entitled to the day off.

The clause will usually be worded in one of three ways:

1. Overall entitlement includes bank holidays –any bank holiday taken off will be deducted from the overall holiday allowed. Please note: this must be a minimum of 28 days. This does not stop employers allowing the extra day (paid or not).

2. Annual leave entitlement plus bank holidays e.g. 20 days annual leave plus bank holidays – this means your employees are entitled to take the Monday off.

3. Annual leave 20 days plus 8 bank holidays i.e. the number of bank holidays allowed are stipulated in the contract and are limited to the number of bank holidays in that holiday year. Sometimes the contract lists these out too e.g. New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday etc. Therefore, it’s up to you, as the employer as to whether you allow this additional day, or not.

Make a decision and communicate what your plans are – will your organisation close on 8th May or remain open for business?  Give your employees (and customers/clients and suppliers!) as much notice as possible and confirm how you will be treating the day if you’re closing. 

24-hour operating

If you’re an organisation with no option but to remain open, you might be providing a 24/7 service for example, can you run with a reduced workforce? If so, consider asking for volunteers to work on the day, and allow others to have the day off, if possible. Otherwise, following the guidance above on checking contracts and giving as much notice as possible on what the plans are regarding opening.

Part time workers

Do remember part time workers – they must not be treated less favourably or be at a disadvantage. If someone does not usually work Mondays, and you’re allowing full time employees an additional day, then the part time employee should be offered the same, albeit on a pro rata basis.

Childcare

Schools will be closed on this day and working parents are likely to need to be around to look after their children if there is no alternative childcare in place.

Employees do have a right to reasonable time off to deal with emergencies (time off for family and dependants. However, this is for unforeseen circumstances, not situations known in advance, such as bank holidays. If employees have used their annual leave entitlement already (and the contract does not allow for additional paid leave on bank holidays), you may wish to offer the day as unpaid leave – or paid leave if you’re able to. 

Here to help

How much time do you spend managing holidays in your organisation? We have a solution to help you spend less time. See more information here.

If you have any questions or need help in calculating holiday, please drop us a line at [email protected] call us on 01449 708999 or call/text 07789 038409.

Related blog posts Annual leave update – Moss HR

Bank holiday announced for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s State Funeral on Monday 19 September – Moss HR

Annual leave questions – Moss HR

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