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Banking on having Easter off? Read your employment contract first

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As the first bank holidays of the year approach, with Easter almost upon us, now is a good time to review what holidays employees are entitled to.

The Working Time Regulations 1998 entitle all employees to 5.6 weeks of annual leave – that’s 28 days of paid holiday for staff working a five-day week. However, there can be some confusion in terms of how this affects bank holidays.

It is within the law to count bank holidays within an employee’s annual leave entitlement or to require them to work on these days – this includes any additional bank holidays that may be provided for Royal weddings etc.

It is a good idea to discuss and clarify these details before employment commences and make sure that your employer clearly states the position in your contract of employment.

If your contract requires you to work on a bank holiday, your employer should ensure that you still have the chance to take your 5.6 weeks elsewhere in the leave year.

There’s no statutory right for employees to have time off on bank holidays and although it is common for many workplaces to close for the period, some industries tend to remain open, such as:

  • Hospitality
  • Care
  • Retail

Some workers may request time off for religious reasons coinciding with the bank holiday. Employers should treat this in the same way as any other request for time off to worship.

Although employees don’t have the automatic right to time off for religious festivals, they are protected from discrimination and harassment due to their religion or belief under the Equality Act 2010 – so an employer should consider and treat the request fairly. There should have a legitimate business reason for the refusal.

There is also no legal requirement to pay extra for working on a bank holiday either, but here are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Any additional bank holiday pay entitlement is determined by the contract of employment
  • If the contract doesn’t specify, entitlement will depend on what’s been agreed at a later date or what the employer usually does in such circumstances
  • If employees have usually been paid extra in the past, this sets a precedent that entitles the worker to be paid in the same way

As can be seen from the points above, it is crucial that you read and understand your entitlements outlined in your employment contract. If you feel any of these terms are unfair, you should first speak with your employer to make them aware of your concerns.