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Common questions about bank holidays

Following a long, cold March, one of the coldest on record, some have wondered if spring would ever come. There is a spring fixture that comes around every year without fail - the spring bank holidays in May. Employers may need a little help with some common questions about bank holidays. For example, are employees who are needed to work on bank holidays entitled to extra pay or additional leave?

There's no statutory right to extra pay for working on a bank holiday, but there may be circumstances when an employee may be paid according to the terms of their contract of employment, or a verbal agreement, or based on custom and practice. For instance, it may be in a written statement - or perhaps past practice at an organisation - that employees are paid a higher rate than normal for working on a bank holiday.

Contractually, it could also be that bank holidays are counted as part of the 5.6 weeks' statutory holiday entitlement given in the Working Time Regulations (WTR) - in which case, employees would need an additional day off in lieu to bring their total paid leave back up to the statutory minimum. It's against regulations to be paid instead of taking your minimum holiday entitlement, except on termination of employment.

What about requiring employees to take annual leave on a bank holiday? Employers can ask their staff to do this. Under the WTR, an employer can give notice to employees to take annual leave on specified dates. So, without a relevant agreement stating otherwise, the employer can give notice of twice the length of the holiday period that it requires the employee to take.

Written statements, which employees should receive within two months of starting work, should outline their entitlement to holiday, including public holidays, and holiday pay.

Acas provides detailed advice and guidance on related areas in its Advice leaflet - Holidays and holiday pay. Acas experts can also come and visit your organisation to look at a range of issues related to Contracts and hours, and work with you to develop practical solutions.

Visit Contracts and hours: how Acas can help in the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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