Over the past 24 hours or so, you may have noticed the news that there has been another Royal engagement, with Prince Harry's proposal to Meghan Markle having been accepted.
Whilst, on the face of it, the forthcoming Royal wedding has no direct relevance to employment law, the public reaction to the announcement, in the hours that have passed since, has involved notable discussions and comments, particularly on social media, about whether there would be an extra bank holiday in the UK to mark the wedding.
So, who would make this decision? Ultimately, the decision lies with the Government and, to that end, an initial announcement came from Downing Street late yesterday afternoon that there were no plans for an extra bank holiday for the UK (citing that there was no ‘precedent’ for the situation). However, when Prince William married Kate Middleton in 2011, a bank holiday was declared throughout the UK. The same happened in 1981 when the Prince of Wales married Diana Spencer, and, again, for the occasion of the marriage of Princess Anne in 1973.
If it is subsequently announced that there is to be an extra bank holiday for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding, then employers may wonder whether they are obliged to grant workers an extra bank holiday that day. Ultimately, the answer depends (to a large degree) on the wording of the contract of employment in place.
The basic position is that all workers in the UK are entitled to an annual minimum statutory annual leave entitlement of 5.6 weeks (which amounts to 28 days for those working five day per week). However, when devising holiday entitlement and holiday procedures, employers are able to include bank holidays in that 5.6 week entitlement if they wish.
Where a worker's contract states they are entitled to a certain amount of annual leave which is 'inclusive of public holidays', an extra bank holiday being granted by the Government for the Royal wedding would not increase their overall paid holiday entitlement. However, if contractual terms entitle workers, for example, to 20 days' annual leave 'plus all bank and public holidays recognised...', workers may be entitled to the additional bank holiday. The other point to note, of course, is that employers may choose to exercise discretion to grant additional time off if they so wish, albeit that care should be taken around how this is communicated to staff to avoid setting any sort of precedent.
Employers will have to wait and see whether an extra bank holiday will be granted for this particular public occasion in due course. However, if you have any questions regarding staff holidays, holiday entitlement or your contractual terms more generally in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact the team on 0141 551 5150.