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HR & Employment Law advice

by Jabeen Tahir, HR Consultant

England has eight permanent bank holidays per year: New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Day, Spring Bank Holiday, Late Summer, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

But how much do you as an employer or employee know about employment law concerning bank holidays? With the Christmas holiday season upon us, here is a useful guide.

  1. Employers can insist that their staff take time off at certain times

An employer can give notice to a worker to take statutory holiday on specified dates. Such notice must be at least twice the length of the period of leave that the worker is being required to take. So, for example, if the business is to shut down for two weeks over Christmas, the employer must give at least four weeks’ notice.

  1. There is no statutory right to extra pay. When an employee works on a bank holiday, there is no statutory right to extra pay– for example “time and a half” or double pay. Any right to extra pay depends on the terms of the employee’s contract of employment.
  2. 3. If the terms of the contract state an employee must work on bank holidays the employee cannot refuse to do so.

This is the case even for religious reasons.

However employers have to comply with the religious discrimination provisions of the Equality Act 2010. Wherever it is reasonably possible, employers should allow employees flexibility to take leave for their own religious holidays and festivals. In a 2005 case, a tribunal found that a Muslim employee should not have been dismissed for making the pilgrimage to Mecca (doing so once in a lifetime is a tenet of Islam).

Employers should be aware that a refusal to grant Christian employees time off for any of the bank holidays with religious significance could amount to indirect religious discrimination if it places them at a particular disadvantage when compared with employees of other faiths, or non-religious employees.

  1. If employees have received a free Christmas lunch for many years, and everyone has known about this benefit, it is possible that employees may be entitled to it as part of their terms and conditions.

This is as a result of ‘custom and practice’, which means a free lunch could form part of a contract of employment. If the employer asks employees to pay for Christmas lunch employees may have the right to refuse to pay.

The employer cannot deduct the money from an employees pay packet unless the contract clearly allows this or the employee has agreed to the deduction in advance. If any deduction is made without written consent, the employee could bring a claim for unlawful deduction from wages.

      5. The law requires employees to give notice of their intention to take a holiday.

The notice must be at least twice as many days’ notice as the length of the holiday you intend to take. So, if you want to take 5 days’ holiday, you must let your employer know at least 10 days’ beforehand.

 If you would like further advice in relation to the above or any other HR matter contact us at Cerno HR:

Cerno HR
Jabeen Tahir HR Consultant
Aisha Beg- HR Consultant

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