An employer's guide to bank holiday entitlement

With at least eight bank holidays every year, UK workers have the promise of a long weekend to look forward to with almost every passing season (hurray!).

The laws surrounding these eagerly awaited days aren't always clear for business owners however, so we've explained everything you need to know in our employer's guide to bank holiday entitlement.

There is no statutory right to allow time off

Although it tends to be the norm rather than the exception, employers have no legal obligation to allow their staff time off on bank holidays. Employees are entitled to 28 days annual leave (if you work a standard 5 day week), but whether or not this includes bank holidays is completely at your discretion. Your stance on holidays will need to be clearly outlined in an employment contract, with any ambiguity being a cause for staff to grab their shades and head for the beach.

Remember part-time employees

Part time employees should always be subjected to the same holiday treatment as their permanent counterparts, although this can prove an issue if they fall on days that staff would have had off as standard. All workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks holiday (so if you only work 2 days a week, you warrant 11.2 days paid leave) but part time employees can have a case for grievance if their full-time colleagues are receiving the benefits of additional paid holiday. This would be considered 'less favourable treatment' which implies there is an inequality between full and part time workers. In this instance, employers should expect to offer a pro-rata allowance of paid holidays to personnel, regardless of whether they'd in on these dates or not.

Beware one-off days

Unexpected holidays can occasionally make their way onto the calendar with the Royal Wedding and Diamond Jubilee both having had an impact on employer plans in recent years. Admittedly, these one-off days are few and far between, but staff may be expecting to 'celebrate' the festivities if you haven't suggested otherwise. If a contract denotes that ALL bank holidays will be treated as leave, then staff are well within their rights to put the beer on ice and prepare the barbecue. If you're suffering from mild Scrooge-like symptoms, then be sure to make reference to '8 standard public holidays' in the contracts' of your workforce.

Bank holidays can be offered in lieu

Business never sleeps and unfortunately some operations simply can't go unmanned on a whim. If this is the case, employers are able to offer staff days in lieu which can be taken as part of the standard 5.6 weeks entitlement. Alternatively, employers can choose to be particularly generous and pay time and half to their Bob Cratchit workers, but there's no obligation to do this.


[BQ]Sometimes it's just not practical for a company to allow its entire team of staff to down tools (or keyboards) just because the banks are shut.


Bank holidays are a privilege not a right (sorry for the school days flashback) and whether or not you allow paid leave will entirely depend on your business position. The ins and outs of entitlement can lead employers into some grey areas, but just remember that staff DON'T HAVE an entitlement to a free public holiday, regardless of how much they probably deserve one (and how hard they stamp their feet!).