The Queen’s State Funeral bank holiday: Does your boss have to give you the day off?
Monday 19 September will be a bank holiday across the UK to coincide with the State Funeral for Queen Elizabeth II, following approval from King Charles III.
The government said it “will allow individuals, businesses and other organisations to pay their respects to Her Majesty and commemorate Her reign, while marking the final day of the period of national mourning”.
It added that the bank holiday will operate in the same way as other bank holidays, and there is no statutory entitlement to time off. However, employers may include bank holidays as part of a worker’s leave entitlement.
Contractual right to time off?
Employers and employees may be unaware of their holiday rights, particularly around an unscheduled bank holiday. Yourmoney.com asked Kate Palmer, HR advice and consultancy director at Peninsula, what your employment contract says about bank holidays.
Palmer said: “Employers may wish to look back at how they have treated extra bank holidays in the past and do the same now. The difference is that there has always been lots of notice for previous extra bank holidays which isn’t the case with this one. To understand the baseline position on time off, contracts of employment need to be checked to determine whether employees have a contractual right to time off even if they don’t have a legal right.”
She explained that if a contract states that an employee has the right to 20 days’ annual leave plus a day off on eight bank holidays and it lists the bank holidays, “there is no contractual right to time off on the day of the funeral because that won’t be one of the days listed”.
However, she said that when looking at contractual wording, “it’s important to check for any other flexibility built in which might allow employers to move things around”.
She gives the example of contracts which state “eight public/bank holidays” but does not list them, or “eight public/bank holidays as listed, or other days as determined by us” which may allow employers to give employees this extra day off but require them to work on another public/bank holiday.
Employers urged to show sensitivity to time off requests
“Of course, where contracts don’t include an automatic right to time off, employers can choose to give it as a day of paid leave in addition to the contractual entitlement, or have people book it off out of their entitlement if that is how the business normally works. Government guidance encourages employers to be sensitive to requests for the day off,” she noted.
Palmer added that London is expected to be particularly busy over the next week, placing extra demands on hotels, hospitality venues, security staff, emergency services and public transport.
“Similarly, other organisations such as florists and memorabilia manufacturers, will see an increase in demand. Employers in these areas may have to consider putting a temporary freeze on staff taking annual leave.
“Employers can also cancel pre-booked annual leave, so long as they give the employee the same amount of notice as the duration of the leave. I would suggest doing this only as a very last resort as it can have a negative impact on morale and motivation,” she said.
Meanwhile, Palmer added that in some sectors which will need to keep up with increased customer demand, employers may choose to offer enhanced overtime rates or incentives to work additional hours.
She added: “It should go without saying that employers need to be sympathetic. Recognise that the Queen’s death may be a difficult time for many. There have been genuine and profound reactions, which have taken some by surprise. Be prepared for heightened emotions and reduced concentration at work.”
And for those who will be working on Monday 19 September, Palmer said: “At 11am, the moment the Queen’s coffin arrives at Westminster Abbey, the nation will fall silent. Try not to schedule any meetings or phone calls at this time.”