In celebration of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022 — marking the British monarch’s 70 years on the throne — an extra public holiday has been created on June 3 in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Additionally, the late May bank holiday has been moved to June 2 to create an extra-long weekend for celebrating the longest reign in British history.
However, while this may be cause for celebration, not everyone will benefit from paid time off for the extra public holiday. In the UK, almost all workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday a year, but this does not include the usual eight or any additional ad hoc holidays.
Holiday distinctions. The UK’s eight public holidays are fixed by statute, common law or Royal Proclamation. Some days are referred to as “bank holidays” because they are fixed by the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971 as days when financial dealings may be suspended but the terms bank and public holiday are used interchangeably.
In the contract. Workers do not have an automatic right to paid time off on a public holiday. The right to paid time off on public holidays depends on whether an employer agrees to this in the worker’s contract. For example, workers would be entitled to an extra day’s paid leave on June 3 if their contracts say, “In each holiday year, you will be entitled to paid holiday of 5.6 weeks plus all bank and public holidays.”
However, workers would not be entitled to an extra days’ holiday if their contracts state, for example, “In each holiday year, you will be entitled to paid holiday of 5.6 weeks plus the eight usual bank and public holidays” or “In each holiday year, you will be entitled to paid holiday of 5.6 weeks including the eight usual bank and public holidays.” Where there is a list of the usual bank and public holidays contained within the contract, the employee will only be entitled to receive paid time off on those days listed. This will mean employees with such wording in their contract will be entitled to paid time off on June 2, as it is one of the designated holidays which has simply been moved, but they will not be entitled to paid leave on June 3.
Notification. If there is no contractual right to the extra public holiday, an employer can decide to close on June 3 without granting an extra day’s holiday pay to its workers. However, workers should have been notified — ideally at the start of the holiday year to ensure as much notice is provided to staff — that they would need to save a day of their yearly entitlement to cover the closure for The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
If a worker is contractually entitled to time off on a specific public holiday, you cannot insist that they work on that day. However, you can ask them to work, and they may be willing to — particularly if there is an incentive to do so, such as additional pay or time off in lieu.
Contingent staff. For businesses engaging agency workers, staffing suppliers should advise whether the workers are entitled to paid leave on June 3 based on the wording of their contract with the workers.
Even where there is no contractual entitlement to take the additional public holiday as paid time off, many employers, as a gesture of goodwill, will decide to allow their employees to take the additional day as paid holiday or, if that is not possible for business reasons, to provide time off in lieu. A similar approach should be taken toward any agency workers who have worked at least 12 weeks in an assignment doing the same or similar work as such employees in order to comply with the Agency Work Regulations, or AWR.
Equally, if such workers are required to work on that day, as overtime pay is a purely contractual right in the UK, the entitlement to and amount of any overtime pay on that day will depend on the wording of the contract and whether it forms part of the terms and conditions they would have received if employed directly under the AWR.
The four days of celebrations in June will comprise public events and community activities as well as national moments of reflection on Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years of service. It is important that employers resolve any questions about whether workers will be free to mark the occasion in advance to avoid any ill feelings on such a joyous occasion.