Do You Need Your Staff to Work On Public Holidays?

November 20, 2019

Sometimes you need your employees to work on public holidays. Can you do this, and what do you need to know?

No Legal Right to time off

A common misconception of both employers and their staff is that there is a right to a day off on all public holidays. This can lead to confusion and tension when a business needs to trade on a bank holiday, so workers are required to complete a shift. The simple fact is that employers are absolutely entitled by the law to have their staff work on any public holiday.

Part of the fault for this confusion lies in the fact that confusing wording is sometimes used about holiday entitlement. Websites giving employment rights advice often say that paid holiday entitlement is 28 days a year, which may include public holidays.  This makes many people assume that bank holidays are a part of holiday entitlement.

In fact, while many employers do give all public holidays as paid leave, and 20 further days, this is not a legal right. There are many businesses, especially in retail and the leisure industry, where bank holidays are a peak trade period, and many other organisations, such as in health care or security, where a 24/7/365 service is needed. These employers need at least some of their staff to work on public holidays.

Check Your Contracts

Although there is no legal right for employees to have bank holidays off, many employment contracts make it a contractual right. The important thing to check is the wording of your annual leave policy. If the allowance is stated as, for example, “20 days per year, plus public holidays”, then this gives your staff a contractual right to those days as paid leave. In this situation, if you need staff to work you will need to negotiate with them. Many staff will be willing to put in a shift in return for extra pay, or a day off in lieu.

If your employment contracts do not state that bank holidays are a part of annual leave entitlement, then you can simply rota people for shifts as usual, and those who want the day off can apply for a holiday using your set procedures.

Communicate Clearly

Because so many people think that they are entitled to have public holidays off work, if you will be expecting your team to work as normal on these days it is vital that you make sure they know this. Make sure that you explain clearly to new starters what your policy is, and think about reminding employees of the rules, especially in the run-up to a public holiday, so that nobody feels blindsided by having to work.

Think about morale

Having to work when so many people across the country have the day off can be a hit to employees’ morale. Bear this in mind and take the opportunity to make sure that your team knows you appreciate them. Whether your budget stretches to extra pay, or perhaps you can relax your dress code for bank holidays, or even a simple, “Thank you”, if your staff feel valued and appreciated, they will reward you with dedication and hard work.

Also, think about the individuals in your team. If you use rotas that change week-to-week, try to keep an eye on patterns so that the same staff doesn’t end up working on every bank holiday. This way you can prevent anyone from feeling picked on, and make sure you spread the load across your team.

Take control of annual leave

At LeaveWizard we believe that setting your policy for bank holidays and communicating about annual leave should be simple. That’s why we offer a fully customised online annual leave management system that puts you in control of all aspects of leave management. See for yourself how LeaveWizard

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