The Royal Wedding - Are employers required to give employees a public holiday?
Employees in the United Kingdom are entitled to 5.6 weeks annual leave per year (inclusive of public holidays) by virtue of the Working Time Regulations. Some employers may not distinguish between ‘normal’ annual leave and public holidays. They may just give employees 5.6 weeks leave to take as and when they like, taking into account the needs of the business. In this instance, the employee would not be entitled to an additional day's leave on 29 April 2011.
Other employers may specify particular rules in relation to the taking of public holidays within their employees’ contracts of employment. For example, a contract may name each of the public holidays that employees are entitled to receive. Alternatively, the contract may be more general stating simply that employees are entitled to a day off work on ‘all recognised public holidays.’
Where the contract states that an employee is entitled to ‘all recognised public holidays,’ they will be entitled to take an additional day’s leave on 29 April 2011. However, where the public holidays to which an employee is entitled are specified in their contracts, they will not be entitled to this additional day.
Employers whose employees are entitled to take 29 April 2011 as a public holiday, who are concerned that their operations may be adversely affected by all employees being absent on this date, may wish to consider whether or not any of their employees would be willing to volunteer to work on this date. Where some employees did volunteer, the employer could then authorise an additional day’s leave for employees on an alternative date. However, if none of the employees were willing to work, they cannot be obliged to do so, unless the contract gives the employer the power to require employees to work on a public holiday.
Employers whose employees are not entitled to take 29 April 2011 as a public holiday may allow employees to apply for annual leave on this date in the usual manner. Where many employees have expressed an interest in taking leave on this date, the company should encourage employees to apply early to have annual leave authorised. It should be made clear that not all employees’ requests may be granted due to operational requirements.
Similarly, employees who are entitled to specified public holidays, but not including 29 April 2011, could be asked whether they would like to ‘swap’ this date for another one of their public holidays (perhaps the May day holiday on the following Monday).