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Extra bank holiday could give HR contract conundrum

The addition of an extra bank holiday to the calendar could create a sticking point between employers and employees.

It was reported in The Independent that chancellor Rishi Sunak was considering making the upcoming Platinum Jubilee bank holiday a permanent fixture every year, as a way to honour Queen Elizabeth II and her reign.

The UK normally has eight bank holidays a year, but there will been nine this year to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee.

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Charlie Thompson, employment lawyer and partner at law firm Stewarts, said that the introduction of an extra bank holiday may lead to questions about holiday entitlement. 

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: "If the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday becomes an annual event, then it is unlikely to oblige employers to amend their contracts.

"The variable here is what the contracts say about bank holidays. Some contracts provide for a certain number of holiday days per year, inclusive of bank holidays, whereas others say that the bank holidays are in addition. In the first situation, holiday entitlement will remain the same, whereas in the second situation employees will get an extra day."

Employee morale could be affected, he added, if holiday entitlement didn't change with a new bank holiday. 

He said: “Employers will need to decide which approach is right for them, bearing in mind that employees are likely to be unimpressed if their annual holiday entitlement stays exactly the same, even with an extra bank holiday.”

While it might be difficult, Randstad UK and Ireland HR director Graham Trevor said that employees would welcome the extra day off.

He told HR magazine: "Any new bank holiday should go down well with employees from every generation - look how unhappy the unions were when the coalition raised the possibility of losing the 1 May bank holiday a decade ago.

"With the stress and pressure of work and the rise of four day weeks meaning fewer couples work on the same days every week - an additional day where all employees can benefit from a longer weekend to relax together is welcome."

Trevor suggested that a bank holiday between August and Christmas would make more sense though. 

He added: "This (Jubilee bank holiday) might be too near other bank holidays which makes for a challenging financial quarter for many businesses. This year Q2 had five bank holidays and none in Q3; there's a huge four month gap between the August bank holiday and Christmas day.

"It is that quarter which would be the best day for a bank holiday from a business perspective. That would also help extend the season for the hospitality industry."

Workers in England and Wales get four fewer public holidays than the EU average, according to the Trade Union Congress. 

Last year it called for the creation of four more bank holidays to improve what it called the "stingy entitlement".