Bank holidays: five things employers need to know

Morris dancers celebrate May Day, the fourth bank holiday of the year (the fifth for Northern Ireland)Brighton Pictures/REX/Shutterstock
Morris dancers celebrate May Day, the fourth bank holiday of the year (the fifth for Northern Ireland)
Brighton Pictures/REX/Shutterstock

Most of the the UK 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. However, Scotland has omissions and additions and Northern Ireland has two extra public holidays in relation to the bank holidays taken in England and Wales.

But how much do you as an employer know about employment law concerning bank holidays? Here are five things you really should know:

1. There is no statutory right for employees to take bank holidays off work. Any right to time off depends on the terms of the employee’s contract of employment.

2. 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.

Bank holidays 2016, 2017 and 2018

Fri 1 Jan 2016
Mon 4 Jan 2016 (Scotland only)
Thu 17 Mar 2016 (NI only)
Fri 25 Mar 2016
Mon 28 Mar 2016 (except Scotland)
Mon 2 May 2016
Mon 30 May 2016
Tue 12 Jul 2016 (NI only)
Mon 1 Aug 2016 (Scotland only)
Mon 29 Aug 2016 (except Scotland)
Wed 30 Nov 2016 (Scotland only)
Mon 26 Dec 2016
Tue 27 Dec 2016

Mon 2 Jan 2017
Tue 3 Jan 2017 (Scotland only)
Fri 17 Mar 2017 (NI only)
Fri 14 Apr 2017
Mon 17 Apr 2017 (except Scotland)
Mon 1 May 2017
Mon 29 May 2017
Wed 12 Jul 2017 (NI only)
Mon 7 Aug 2017 (Scotland only)
Mon 28 Aug 2017 (except Scotland)
Thu 30 Nov 2017 (Scotland only)
Mon 25 Dec 2017
Tue 26 Dec 2017

Mon 1 Jan 2018
Tue 2 Jan 2018 (Scotland only)
Mon 19 Mar 2018 (NI only)
Fri 30 Mar 2018
Mon 2 Apr 2018 (except Scotland)
Mon 7 May 2018
Mon 28 May 2018
Thu 12 Jul 2018 (NI only)
Mon 6 Aug 2018 (Scotland only)
Mon 27 Aug 2018 (except Scotland)
Fri 30 Nov 2018 (Scotland only)
Tue 25 Dec 2018
Wed 26 Dec 2018

3. A part-time worker has the right not to be treated less favourably than a comparable full-time worker. This includes entitlement to bank holidays.

The best practice – and safest – approach to part-time employees is to give them a pro-rated allowance of paid bank holidays, irrespective of whether or not they normally work on the days on which bank holidays fall.

4. If an employee is required to work on bank holidays under the terms of their employment contract, the employee cannot refuse to work, even for religious reasons.

However, 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.

5. If employers have worded contracts to say that employees are entitled to “statutory entitlement plus bank holidays”, this no longer denotes 20 days’ leave plus eight bank holidays. Following the increase in statutory minimum leave from four to 5.6 weeks in 2009, this wording grants 28 days’ holiday with eight bank holidays on top. Check your employment contracts to determine if this is an issue.

This style of contract wording can also mean employees receiving more bank holidays or fewer bank holidays than are required. This is an issue where the employer has a holiday year that runs from April to March and the timing of Easter weekend is such that the employee could receive as many as 10 bank holidays one holiday year or as few as six bank holidays the next year.

For full guidance on bank holidays see XpertHR’s FAQs section.

This article was first published in 2009, and last updated on 3 March 2017.

  • brenda

    my employer said we need to use our own holidays for good friday and easter monday.this isbecause easter falls in march next year

  • sonia

    This information is wrong. ..check the uk gov website for more details

    • Urmantrude

      How? Looks good to me

      • kate

        Obviously you would be a tight employer….
        I Get double pay and days holiday in Leiu if I work Bank holidays.

        • JB

          Is that in the terms of your contract?

  • William

    My employer pays me time and a half for working bank holidays but takes a days holiday off me is this legal

    • elliot

      No its not unless your getting double pay plus the added half can’t make you use your holiday unless no one normally gets time and a half

    • Schnitzer325ci .


  • Jamie Hutt

    Hi guys, I’ve just had the bank holiday weekend off, and I had the Tuesday off work aswell as an authorised absence due to Illness, is my employer entitled to refuse to pay me the bank holiday as I was absent on the Tuesday??

  • Nina

    Is it legal to take my holidays day on christmas (only this day factory not work). Or, if i don’t book this day (on workin shift), company registered a sick. Therefore i ask U: have they right to force me do it?

    • Sarah

      Surely if not u would be just put down as unpaid leave for the day?

  • Someone

    In my contract I’ve not got any protected bank holiday so work them and at standard pay, but in newer contracts it does say that bank holidays are protected with either time off or double pay, I know that this is unfair but is there anything I can do about it?

  • Garry55

    I work full-time (35 hours a week, usually over 5 days) finished today (Xmas Eve) after working 35 hours since Monday – my pay packet only contained my usual weekly pay – should I have received pay for Xmas Day and Boxing day?

  • Becky

    Hi I’m a carer I worked Christmas Eve and Boxing Day all day 7-2130 I’m working New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day I have 2 children am I able to turn it down without trouble or is it normal

  • markiemania

    My contract stipulates that I get double pay for a bank Holiday however the company I work for decided without consultation to pay who ever worked on 26th December the double pay and pay me single pay for the Bank holiday, Had they have consulted me I would have happily worked for time and a half and shared my premium with those who worked on the 26th But there was no consultation Is this legal. I would appreciate a fast reply as I have a grievance meeting about this subject very soon and I want to be armed with the facts. I am a union member and wanted to know whether I should also get my rep to attend. Thanks In advance.

  • Ida Harries

    As a client of a Care Agency do I have to pay more for care on December 24th after 3pm and Decenber 31st after 3pm.

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