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Employee leave rights for the Queen’s funeral

As the UK continues to mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the government has announced that the day of her funeral will be a bank holiday, as well as a Day of National Mourning.

This announcement was made in part to ensure that as many people as possible could take time to pay their respects to the country’s longest-serving monarch, however it’s important to note that a bank holiday is not a statutory right to a day off.

Annual leave and national mourning:

HR responsibilities during a mourning period

Extra bank holiday could give HR contract conundrum

Dealing with overwhelm during grief

Employers may wish to look back at how they have treated extra bank holidays in the past and do the same now. 

The main difference here is that there has always been lots of notice for previous extra bank holidays, which isn’t the case with this one. 

To understand the baseline position on time off, contracts of employment need to be checked to determine whether employees have a contractual right to time off even if they don’t have a legal right. 

If a contract states that an employee has the right to 20 days’ annual leave plus a day off on eight, listed, bank holidays, then there is no contractual right to time off on the day of the Queen’s funeral because it won’t be one of the days listed.

When looking at contractual wording, it’s important to check for any other flexibility built in which might allow employers to move things around. For example, contracts which state “eight public/bank holidays” but does not list them, or “eight public/bank holidays as listed, or other days as determined by us” may allow employers to give employees this extra day off but require them to work on another public/bank holiday.

Of course, employers can still choose to give employees the time as a day of paid leave in addition to the contractual entitlement, or have people book it off out of their entitlement if that is how the business normally works.

Government guidance encourages employers to be sensitive to requests given the historical significance of the Queen’s funeral.

While many businesses will close, others will choose to stay open. Some may find their workload is significantly less than usual, for example, if a supplier has chosen to close.

If employers find themselves struggling to find work for their staff to complete, they may wish to consider a lay-off provision. Employers will be able to request that staff stay home and pay them a reduced rate. The current rate is £31 per day for a maximum of five working days in a three-month period.

Other employers, for example, hospitality businesses, may find themselves in the opposite position, experiencing an upturn in demand. Many could see a surge of visitors – especially businesses in London – meaning they may need to invoke overtime clauses and consider the premiums associated with them.

The Queen was on the throne for most of the population’s lifetime and she meant a great deal to many people in the UK and abroad. 

Regardless of whether a business chooses to close or not, it’s important to handle the situation with care. Many people are deeply saddened by the Queen’s death so you need to consider what you can do to keep business moving and staff morale high.

By Alan Price, CEO at BrightHR