Bank holidays: seven things employers need to know (an extra public holiday?)

A deserted beach in Scarborough during lockdown. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire/PA Images

Furlough presents an additional complication for which employers need to ensure they pay their staff correctly for a bank holiday. Our usual list of five things employers need to know about bank holidays becomes seven, with a description of how employers should handle public holidays during furlough and the prospect of an additional bank holiday for 2020 in October half term.

Most of the UK has eight permanent bank holidays per year: New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Day (although for 2020 this was replaced by the 75th anniversary of VE 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 seven 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.

3. The government has said that it is “considering proposals” by VisitBritain to create a one-off, additional bank holiday in the autumn half term, most likely on 26 October 2020, to help stimulate tourism in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. However, a Downing Street spokesman said it was “worth acknowledging that extra bank holidays do come with economic costs”.

4. If they have employees currently on furlough, employers need to be careful around bank holidays. If, in their employment contract, bank holidays are included in holiday entitlement, employers have two choices. They should pay the employee in full for the bank holiday that falls during furlough, or substitute it with a day’s annual leave to be taken at a later date. However, if the furloughed employee is not entitled to bank holidays off in their employment contract, a bank holiday will have no effect on their pay during furlough.

Bank holidays 2019, 2020 and 2021

Tue 1 Jan 2019
Wed 2 Jan 2019 (Scotland only)
Mon 18 Mar 2019 (NI only)
Fri 19 Apr 2019
Mon 22 Apr 2019 (except Scotland)
Mon 6 May 2019
Mon 27 May 2019
Fri 12 Jul 2019 (NI only)
Mon 5 Aug 2019 (Scotland only)
Mon 26 Aug 2019 (except Scotland)
Mon 2 Dec 2019 (Scotland only)
Wed 25 Dec 2019
Thu 26 Dec 2019

Wed 1 Jan 2020
Thu 2 Jan 2020 (Scotland only)
Tue 17 Mar 2020 (NI only)
Fri 10 Apr 2020
Mon 13 Apr 2020 (except Scotland)
Fri 8 May 2020 *
Mon 25 May 2020
Mon 13 Jul 2020 (NI only)
Mon 3 Aug 2020 (Scotland only)
Mon 31 Aug 2020 (except Scotland)
Mon 30 Nov 2020 (Scotland only)
Fri 25 Dec 2020
Mon 28 Dec 2020

Fri 1 Jan 2021
Mon 4 Jan 2021 (Scotland only)
Wed 17 Mar 2021 (NI only)
Fri 2 Apr 2021
Mon 5 Apr 2021 (except Scotland)
Mon 3 May 2021
Mon 31 May 2021
Mon 12 Jul 2021 (NI only)
Mon 2 Aug 2021 (Scotland only)
Mon 30 Aug 2021 (except Scotland)
Tue 30 Nov 2021 (Scotland only)
Mon 27 Dec 2021
Tue 28 Dec 2021
* The May Day bank holiday in 2020 was replaced by a public holiday on Friday 8 May to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

The last time this affected employers that use such wording was in 2018, when Good Friday was 30 March and Easter Monday was 2 April. The following year, Good Friday landed on 19 April 2019, while Easter Monday was on 22 April 2019.  For a holiday year running 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019, employees would appear to have lost out.

The next time this will be an issue for contracts that use such wording will be in 2024, when Good Friday is 29 March and Easter Monday is 1 April. This means that the 2023-24 holiday year would have nine bank holidays and 2024-25 would only have seven.

This article was first published in 2009 and last updated on 19 May 2020.

18 Responses to Bank holidays: seven things employers need to know (an extra public holiday?)

  1. Avatar
    brenda 10 Mar 2015 at 8:28 pm #

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

  2. Avatar
    sonia 25 Mar 2015 at 7:59 pm #

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

    • Avatar
      Urmantrude 27 Mar 2015 at 11:44 am #

      How? Looks good to me

      • Avatar
        kate 2 Apr 2015 at 9:27 am #

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

        • Avatar
          JB 3 Apr 2015 at 3:24 pm #

          Is that in the terms of your contract?

  3. Avatar
    William 12 May 2015 at 9:51 am #

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

    • Avatar
      elliot 25 May 2015 at 5:16 pm #

      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

    • Avatar
      Schnitzer325ci . 25 May 2015 at 10:07 pm #


  4. Avatar
    Jamie Hutt 28 May 2015 at 1:10 pm #

    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??

  5. Avatar
    Nina 9 Dec 2015 at 10:58 am #

    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?

    • Avatar
      Sarah 26 Dec 2015 at 7:26 pm #

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

  6. Avatar
    Someone 17 Dec 2015 at 2:58 pm #

    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?

  7. Avatar
    Garry55 24 Dec 2015 at 3:59 pm #

    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?

  8. Avatar
    Becky 30 Dec 2015 at 3:56 pm #

    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

  9. Avatar
    markiemania 7 Jan 2016 at 7:23 am #

    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.

  10. Avatar
    Ida Harries 8 Jan 2016 at 3:08 pm #

    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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