While the nation is collectively jumping for joy at the prospect of two four-day public holidays on two successive weekends in England and Wales, employers may find themselves wondering where they stand.
The announcement that the royal wedding date is the 29th April 2011 and is to be marked with a public holiday could lead to a big gap in the business calendar – an issue which could potentially affect a series of day to day running issues for a business.
The question over whether employees are entitled to the additional bank holiday rests, initially, on what lies in the contract of employment.
Where the contract simply states that the employee will be entitled to bank holidays in addition to their annual leave with no specification of which ones or how many then they are fully entitled to the extra day off work.
But if the contract lists the number or dates of bank holidays, employees will not be expressly entitled to the extra day’s holiday.
However, regardless of the contents of the contract, an employer can still refuse to allow employees to take the extra bank holiday. Even though the employer could be in breach of contract, the breach will not be important enough to allow the employee to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal.
In practical terms, the real issue for employers taking this route could become staff morale. Bosses will need to consider the balance between disruption to customer or client services against what effect withholding the extra holiday day could have on staff, as well as issues around bad publicity from such a move.
The speculation that employers will be swamped by requests by staff to take time off between the Easter break and the royal wedding weekend is rife amongst the business community.
The timing of the extra bank holiday day could open the floodgates for requests to take three days annual leave – a move which will secure most staff 11 consecutive days away from the office.
Spring holidays 2011
Friday 22 April 2011 – Good Friday bank holiday
Monday 25 April 2011 – Easter Monday bank holiday
Friday 29 April 2011 – Royal Wedding public holiday
Monday 2 May 2011 – Early May bank holiday
While this is good news for staff, employers need to be careful about how requests are handled. Customers and clients may expect to see business as usual, so bosses need to bear in mind that their business may have to deliver on existing commitments.
Picking between staff could lead to discontent so employers need to make sure that a fair system is put in place to avoid uncertainty around the procedure of selection.
Some contracts of employment may already state a holiday policy which lays out arrangements for requesting holiday and grounds for refusal. Where this is not the case employers can always rely on the Working Time Regulations – a policy which gives them the right to refuse a request to take leave by issuing a counter notice.
For more information on handling employment issues please contact our Employment team on 0844 391 5866.