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Global HR Lawyers

A day off for the Coronation: can we all bank on it?

19 January 2023

It has been announced that there will be an additional bank holiday on 8 May 2023 to mark the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III. However, the legal position is not entirely straightforward, and some employees may not be entitled to an extra day off at all.

The government has confirmed that, to celebrate the King’s Coronation on Saturday 6 May 2023, there will be an additional one-off bank holiday on Monday 8 May 2023. This bank holiday will take effect across the United Kingdom.

Whilst employees across the UK will be busy planning how to spend their additional day of holiday, the legal position is not straightforward. In fact, whether or not an employee is actually entitled to the extra bank holiday will depend on the wording of their employment contract, as well as their work pattern.

Who will get the day off?

Technically, employees will only be entitled to the extra bank holiday if their employment contract says that they are entitled to X days of annual leave plus bank/public holidays.

If their employment contract says that they are entitled to X days of annual leave inclusive of bank holidays, or X days of annual leave plus the usual 8 UK bank holidays (in England and Wales), it will be entirely at the employer’s discretion whether or not to give the employee the additional bank holiday this year.

Part-time employees

The position is the same for part-time staff – whether they are entitled to the day off (or an alternative day off) is dependent on the wording of their contract.

Part-time staff who would not normally be working on the bank holiday, because it is not one of their working days, would miss out if the extra day off is only given to those employees who do normally work on that day. Therefore, in order to avoid the risk of a claim for less favourable treatment of part-time workers, their holiday entitlement should be adjusted to reflect this on a pro-rata basis.

What about pay?

Some employees, such as shift workers, will not necessarily expect to get the extra day as a holiday but they might expect to be paid a “bank holiday” rate of pay. Again, whether employers have to pay this or not will depend on the precise wording of the employee’s employment contract. If the contract provides for a higher rate of pay for any bank holidays worked, then this would include the additional bank holiday.

How will employers respond?

However employers choose to respond, it is important to consider employee relations. There are reputational risks associated with mismanaging the situation and ending up with disgruntled employees who feel they are being treated unfairly.

If employees usually have bank holidays off (or are paid a “bank holiday” rate), they are likely to expect the same to apply on 8 May 2023. Even if they are not legally entitled to it in accordance with their contract, not giving the extra day off is likely to be badly received.

In this situation consistency is important. It is therefore worth considering what position the business took on 3 June 2022 for the extra bank holiday to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. Employees are likely to remember and expect the employer’s policy to be the same this time, given the underlying rationale of a day off for national celebration is very similar. In contrast, the approach taken on the day of the funeral of the Queen last year, which arguably served to enable the public to watch the event itself, may have been slightly different for some employers.

In Northern Ireland, the position is the same as outlined above, although there are 10 usual bank holidays, with a range of practice applying in relation to these holidays depending partly on the industry sector and partly on geography. Northern Irish employers may wish to seek advice on potential religious or political opinion discrimination issues associated with giving, or not giving, the Coronation bank holiday.

We anticipate that many businesses may decide to give employees the extra day off regardless of the technical legal position, particularly given the wider context. There is an ongoing skills shortage in the UK and employers are understandably keen to retain the best people. By choosing not to observe the extra holiday, which is being widely reported in the press as an extra-long weekend for “everyone”, employers would risk damaging existing employee relations.

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