The Royal Wedding last month serves as a timely reminder of the fact that workers have no statutory entitlement to time off on bank or public holidays (yes, technically they are different).

The Daily Mail on 28 April ran an article under the bye-line “Bosses accused of using little-known rule to wriggle out of extra bank holiday payment”. So it seems a subtle distinction which is common knowledge to HR professionals and employment lawyers is perhaps not generally well understood: the basic position is that there is a statutory right to 28 days’ holiday per year but no statutory right to take any of that holiday (with or without pay) on bank or public holidays.

That being said many workers are entitled either to paid leave or to overtime rates of pay on bank and public holidays under the terms of their employment contracts. There may be express contract provisions or there may be implied terms such as customary arrangements which may amount to implied contractual terms.

The basic position, subject to any contractual difference, is that a full time worker is entitled to 28 days’ holiday per year and that any bank or public holidays on which they do not work are included in counting those 28 days. A pro rata calculation, which can be complicated, has to be made for part time workers. It is worth noting that a part time worker who never works on Mondays is not entitled to pro-rata time off (or pay in lieu) in respect of Bank Holidays which always fall on a Monday.

In England and Wales there are six regular bank holidays, New Year’s Day, Easter Monday; the first and last Mondays in May, the last Monday in August and Boxing Day. To these must be added two common law or public holidays, on Good Friday and Christmas Day (if Christmas Day or Boxing Day fall on a Saturday or Sunday the holiday is postponed until the Monday – and Tuesday if necessary).

In Scotland 2 January is an additional bank holiday (or 3 January if the 1st or 2nd is a Sunday) and the first rather the last Monday of August is a bank holiday.

Public holidays can be added by Royal Proclamation, as for the Royal Wedding last month and for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee on Tuesday 5 June 2012. Although perhaps not yet widely known the Government announced in January 2011 that in 2012 the last Monday of May holiday will be put back a week to Monday 4 June. This will ensure that the Queen’s Jubilee will be an occasion really worth waiting for and a great warm up for the Olympic Games a couple of months later. Or, for others like me, an opportunity to make the most of additional entitlement by getting out of the country for a few days!


  1. The fact that employers do not have to pay for Bank or public Holidays and are entitles to determine whether employees should take these days as days our of their holiday is not an unknown loop hole as it has been branded in the media during the Royal Wedding festivities.
    There are a great deal of companies who operate based on this rule and staff who are aware of it as it is usually clearly set out in employment contracts or staff handbooks.

  2. Hi Tara,
    Although you’re obviously aware of the issue, you may be surprised to know how many employers are not. This is perhaps reinforced since this is the most visited page on our blog in the last month. The Daily Mail called it a “little known rule” and my experience of dealing with employers as well as the number of enquiries we receive on this topic suggest that their observation is correct.
    Martin Malone, Partner, Canter Levin & Berg

Comments are closed.