Bank holidays and Christmas - Holiday entitlement

Bank holidays and Christmas

Whether an employee has to work on bank holidays is up to their employer. It might depend on the industry they work in. For example, restaurants and hotels might be more likely to be open on bank holidays.

A bank holiday might fall on a day that an employee does not usually work.

Employers should:

  • tell employees the organisation's rules for bank holidays – especially if they're new, or they're changing from full-time work to part-time or shift work
  • regularly discuss with employees how upcoming business closures or busy periods might affect holidays they plan to take

Check which days are bank holidays on GOV.UK.

Checking if bank holidays are included in holiday entitlement

An employer can include bank holidays in the statutory minimum 5.6 weeks' paid holiday. Some employers might give bank holidays in addition to the statutory minimum.

This is the same whether an employee works full time or part time.

Employees should check their employment contract to find out if bank holidays are included in their paid holiday entitlement.

In some circumstances, extra bank holidays are announced. Whether an employee is entitled to the extra days off will depend on their contract.

If an employer changes when they open or close

An employer has the right to make changes to when employees take holiday if they need to.

For example, they can decide to shut over Christmas and tell their employees to use some of their holiday entitlement. This is the case even if in previous years the business was open over Christmas.

If an employer needs employees to take holiday, they should tell them at least twice as many days before as the amount of days they need them to take. This is calendar days, not working days.

For example, if they need employees to take 2 days of holiday, they should tell them at least 4 days before.

Changing terms in a contract

Before making a change to the way employees take holidays, an employer should check their employment contracts. They should consider whether any terms have been implied by custom and practice. This is where well-known terms have formed over a long time.

If an employer is making significant, long-term changes they must follow the process for changing an employment contract. For example, if they're changing the number of holiday days employees get.

Find out more about:

Bank holidays on days someone usually works

Employers can make employees take a bank holiday as part of their holiday entitlement if:

  • the bank holiday falls on a day they usually work
  • the workplace is shut or business stops on that day

The employer must either:

  • make this clear in the employment contract
  • give the employees notice that the day needs to be taken as part of their holiday entitlement

If someone wants to work on a bank holiday

An employee might not want to take the day off on a bank holiday.

They could ask their employer if they can work the bank holiday and take another day off instead.

This is taking a day's holiday 'in lieu'. The employer does not have to agree to this.

An employee cannot get paid in lieu of bank holidays. This is unless they're part of holiday entitlement they have not used when they leave their job. 

If an employee works on a bank holiday, they must still get their full 5.6 weeks of statutory holiday entitlement as paid time off.

Bank holidays on days an employee does not usually work

A bank holiday might be on a day an employee does not usually work. For example, if someone works part-time and does not work on Mondays.

In this situation, the employer cannot make the employee use that day as part of their holiday entitlement.

Example of bank holidays falling on non-working days

Ali works 3 days a week, including Mondays. Jo also works 3 days a week but does not work on Mondays.

They both get the statutory 5.6 weeks of holiday. This includes bank holidays. They both get 16.8 days' holiday per year. Their employer closes the business on bank holidays. 

As more bank holidays fall on a Monday, Ali has to use more of their holiday entitlement for bank holidays than Jo.

Bank holidays when off sick or on statutory leave

If they're included in their holiday entitlement, an employee still builds up paid days off for bank holidays while on:

  • sick leave
  • maternity leave
  • paternity leave
  • adoption leave
  • shared parental leave
  • ordinary parental leave
  • parental bereavement leave
  • carer's leave – this right comes into effect on 6 April 2024

Find out more about holiday when on statutory leave or off sick

Contact the Acas helpline

If you have any questions about bank holidays and Christmas, you can contact the Acas helpline.

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