A holiday all around?

In November last year the government announced an additional bank holiday in recognition of the Queen’s fiftieth year as monarch. Republican though I may be if someone’s offering me an additional day’s holiday I’ll take it!

Will everyone be entitled to it though? When announced that was the impression the government gave, this is from the gov.uk website detailing the additional public holiday. The (now former) Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said at the time (emphasis added):

Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee will be a truly historic moment – and one that deserves a celebration to remember.

We can all look forward to a special, four-day Jubilee weekend, when we will put on a spectacular, once-in-a-generation show that mixes the best of British ceremonial splendour with cutting edge art and technology. It will bring the entire nation and the Commonwealth together in a fitting tribute to Her Majesty’s reign.

One hopes the number of employers seeking to deprive the workers of this extra holiday will be few but it is something I think workers and their reps should be alert to. There is no strict legal requirement for an employer to give public holidays off, so long as the total leave meets for requirements of the Section 13(2)(c) of the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR), which is four weeks leave/28 days leave. That total leave can however include Public Holidays, and often does.

Ultimately, whether a worker can benefit from the additional Public Holiday and enforce this will be a matter of contract. And this is why I think it may be prudent for workers to check their agreements. Does the contract say they can receive X number of days leave + the eight days Public holidays – if yes that will comply with the WTR but be likely to mean the worker is not entitled to the extra days. However, if it says, for example, X number of days leave plus any official bank holidays then there will be a contractual right to the extra day.

Hopefully most employers are sensible – and it is easy to see that if they’re not they may receive a public relations backlash – but it may be useful for reps and workers to check their positions in advance and if not work with their unions to put the employers under pressure to do the right thing and give workers a break.

Had the government wanted to ensure all workers received an extra day they could have legislated to do so, instead they did nothing to ensure this was actually given to workers outside of any rights under contract. That is something unions may need to reflect and lobby upon to prevent any future recurrences.

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