Staff to get bank holidays in addition to annual leave

Government plans to implement legislation that will ensure workers do not have to take bank holidays as part of their annual leave will see the UK start to catch up with its European counterparts.

Up to two million workers in the UK have to take their bank holidays as part of their statutory entitlement to four weeks’ annual leave, but new measures announced last month will in effect add the eight bank holidays to the allowance.

Most European countries already provide more than the EU basic entitlement of 20 days’ paid holiday and guarantee public holidays on top, and Owen Warnock, employment law partner at Eversheds, said it was inevitable that the playing field would be levelled at some point.

“Most employers allow workers to take their bank holidays, or days in lieu, in addition to the four weeks’ annual leave provided by European law under the Working Time Regulations,” he said. “However, there are still a significant number of workers who don’t have this right.”

If this proposal is implemented “there is no doubt” that it will impact on those sectors where wage costs are already tight, Warnock said. But the plans to phase in the additional holiday gradually should help businesses to plan ahead and adjust over time, he added.

Melanie Lane, solicitor in the employment group at Olswang, said: “Employers that do not already allow their workers to take public and bank holidays in addition to the statutory minimum leave entitlement will need to amend their practices from next year, and should bear in mind the financial implications of this for budgeting purposes.”

It is expected that workers will gain four of the extra days from October 2007, with the right to take the other four being introduced in either October 2008 or 2009.

The initial consultation, which closes on 22 September 2006, can be found on the DTI website.

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