To celebrate the King’s Coronation on Saturday 6th May 2023, the government confirmed that there will be an additional bank holiday on Monday 8th May 2023. Many of our clients have been asking us how the King’s Coronation bank holiday will apply to them and how they can address this.
Topics to be answered in this article
What is the history of a bank holiday?
For most of the 19th century employees were required to work every day save for Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday. They were ‘holy days’ and brought welcome relief for those working in a fundamentally agrarian economy. Another 33 Saints Days were also potentially available although not for bankers. The confusion made it difficult to conduct financial business.
Sir John Lubbock’s Bank Holiday Act of 1871 was the key point in time when the need for clearly designated bank holidays became obvious and the existence was enshrined in statute. He was a banker and politician. The original plan for bank holidays to apply only to banks and financial institutions. The parliamentary debate in 1871 records this, “The question of holidays was generally left to be settled between employers and employed, and it was very easy for most employers who desired it, to give their men a holiday at a small pecuniary sacrifice to themselves; but that was impossible in the case of banks so long as the holders of bills of exchange and promissory notes had power to require payment on those days. In order to avoid bankruptcy it was necessary that banks should be kept open on those days, and thus the clerks could not have holidays on – such occasions. He believed a feeling was generally growing that work in England was quite hard enough, and that additional holidays would not be unwelcome to those to whom they were given, nor unpopular with the general community”.
This is how we ended up with fixed bank holidays on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday and Easter Monday, Whit Monday, the spring bank holiday in May and the summer day in August making a total of 8 fixed bank holidays. 2022 was unusual in that we saw an additional 2 bank holidays due to unprecedented events. After enjoying the additional Platinum Jubilee bank holiday, we sadly mourned the on the bank holiday coinciding with the Queen’s funeral. Although employees may welcome any extra time off, we appreciate this was tricky for employers to navigate.
Are our employees entitled to the bank holiday?
Remember that there is in fact no automatic right to time off on these days. It all depends on the contract of employment and the requirements of the business. So, do you have to honour these days and does this also apply to the additional 9th day this year? The answer is that it depends on the wording of the contract of employment.
If the contract says that an employee is entitled to bank holidays in addition to their annual leave entitlement and does not state the numbers or specific days of those bank holidays then plainly employees will be entitled to all days, whenever they may be, including the additional day for the King’s Coronation. If this is not possible for operational reasons, then employers should allow employees a day off in lieu at another time.
However, if the contract says that the employee is entitled to the existing 8 named bank holidays or the ‘usual bank holidays’ or bank holidays are included within annual leave entitlement, then an employer will not be required to give the King’s Coronation as an additional day of leave. This means an employer could close on the additional day and require employees to take that day out of their existing annual leave entitlement or a business could carry on as normal and simply require staff to work. This would be permissible however either scenario is likely to cause consternation to employees.
What advice can you give us?
We suggest that employers keep in mind the recent phenomenon known as the ‘Great Resignation’ precipitated in part by the pandemic. Employees are statistically more likely now than ever before to leave employment in the pursuit of better terms and benefits. We suggest that businesses should heed the wise words of Lubbock who observed not only that ‘work was quite hard enough’ but also that holidays are ‘not unpopular with the general community’. During a time when morale of the workforce may especially need boosting, observing this additional bank holiday could mean a great deal to employees who can then return rested and motivated having had an extra day to themselves, no matter how they choose to spend it.
The Government guidance can be found here. Should you have any questions or concerns about this matter or any other employment issues, please do contact our Head of Employment Rebecca Dennis at firstname.lastname@example.org who would be happy to help.