It has been confirmed that the funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will take place on Monday 19 September 2022, with King Charles III also announcing that the day will be declared a public holiday.
Following that announcement, the Government has published a press release (which although not overly helpful to employers, does contain some useful information).
Are my staff entitled to time off on the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s Funeral?
In the words of that press release:
“Monday 19 September, the date of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s State Funeral, will be a national bank holiday.
This 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.
This bank holiday will operate in the same way as other bank holidays, and there is no statutory entitlement to time off. Employers may include bank holidays as part of a workers annual leave entitlement.” [Emphasis added].
You will see that the main body of the press release contains a “Q&A” about workers and their entitlement to time off on the additional bank holiday. However, most of the “answers” published are in the “this is a matter of discussion between you and your employer” vein, which is not particularly helpful.
Below we explain the accurate legal position.
Is there a legal right to time off for the additional bank holiday?
There is no statutory right to a day off on a bank holiday. Whether workers are entitled to take a day off on a bank holiday and / or whether they are entitled to be paid for that day are usually questions of contract.
There are plenty of workers whose role means that they have little choice but to be available to work on bank holidays. For those people, their contracts are likely to be clear that there is no entitlement to take bank holidays as annual leave.
What if the contract states holiday entitlement as “28 days including bank holidays”?
Some contracts will state holiday entitlement as something like “28 days including bank holidays”. For employees who have this wording in their contracts, there is no right to take the 19 September 2022 as additional holiday. In this instance, an employer could either grant an additional day of paid leave or give the day as unpaid leave. Alternatively of course, assuming the employer isn’t granting an extra days’ paid holiday, the employee could request to take the day as holiday in the usual way.
The above is also likely to apply if the contract states the annual holiday entitlement to be “20 days plus the usual 8 bank holidays”.
What if the contract states holiday entitlement as “20 days plus bank holidays”?
Some contracts will state holiday entitlement as something like “20 days plus bank holidays”. For employees with this wording in their contracts it is likely that they will be entitled to 19 September 2022 as an additional paid holiday.
This would also be pro-rated for any employee who is part time. If they usually work on a Monday, then a part-time employee could either work a different day that week to make up the time or use some of their holiday entitlement to take the day off.
What if an employee has already used their full holiday entitlement?
For employees that have already used their full leave entitlement, deciding what to do should be a matter of pragmatic conversation.
In a situation where an employer decides to close the business for the bank holiday, meaning that an employee with no holiday entitlement left for the year cannot work, it is most likely that the employer would have to grant them a paid day off (because the decision of the business prevents them from working).
Can I require an employee to take holiday?
Some employees may not wish to use their holiday entitlement for the bank holiday on 19 September 2022 (perhaps because they are saving it for another day, or just want to keep it in the bank for now). Employers can however require employees to take paid holiday as long as they provide the employee with notice which is twice the length of the leave they are requiring the employee to take.
So, assuming an employee has holiday entitlement left to take, an employer could require them to take 1 days’ paid holiday on 19 September 2022 by giving 2 days’ notice of the requirement.
A compassionate approach
Employers should remember that for many, the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will be a highly emotional occasion; and her funeral perhaps even more so.
Denying leave requests from those who wish to take the day to mourn, or closing your operations for a day but not giving employees an extra day as paid holiday, is likely to be an unpopular approach that could cause rifts in employment relationships. Given we are already experiencing something of a staffing and wellbeing crisis, we would encourage employers to handle this topic sensitively and compassionately.