Key points

  • The following days are bank and public holidays in England and Wales:

    New Year's Day (1 January) Good Friday
    Easter Monday
    the first Monday in May
    the last Monday in May
    the last Monday in August
    Christmas Day (25 December)
    Boxing Day (26 December)

    27 December (if either of Christmas Day or Boxing Day falls on a Sunday) or any days substituted for those days (or added to those days) by government or Crown proclamation (eg, New Year's Eve, 1999).

  • In Scotland, bank and public holidays fall on:

    New Year's Day (1 January) (or 2 January, if New Year's Day falls on a Sunday)
    2 January (or 3 January, if 2 January falls on a Sunday)
    Good Friday
    Easter Monday the first Monday in May
    the last Monday in May
    the first Monday in August
    Christmas Day (or 26 December, if Christmas Day falls on a Sunday)
    26 December (if it is not a Sunday).

  • And in Northern Ireland:

    New Year's Day (1 January)
    St Patrick's Day (17 March) (or 18 March, if 17 March is a Sunday)
    Good Friday
    Easter Monday
    the first Monday in May
    the last Monday in May
    12 July
    the last Monday in August
    Christmas Day (25 December)
    Boxing Day (26 December)
    27 December (if either of Christmas Day or Boxing Day falls on a Sunday).

  • Strictly speaking, Christmas Day and Good Friday are common law public holidays in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; whereas the remainder are bank holidays as defined by the Banking & Financial Dealings Act 1971. For our purposes, the distinction is somewhat academic. Bank and public holidays are routinely referred to, collectively, as public holidays.

Rights of employees

  • Although employees have no statutory right to public holidays (paid or otherwise), it has long since been customary for employees to be given paid time off work on those days (or on days substituted for those days). If employees are required (or volunteer) to work normally on a public holiday, they will ordinarily expect to be paid at premium rates (eg, time-and-a-half or double time) for such work and/or to be granted equivalent paid time off work in lieu (to be taken within a specified period after the day in question). However, it should again be emphasised that premium payments for work on a bank or public holiday is not a statutory requirement.

Contracts of employment and collective agreements

  • Much will depend on what is written into the individual contract of employment or in the terms of a (local or industry-wide) collective agreement. To ensure that employees are made aware of their rights (if any) in relation to holidays (including bank and public holidays), section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 requires employers to give each employee a written statement containing specified particulars of the terms and conditions of his (or her) employment, including particulars of his or her 'entitlement to holidays, including public holidays, and holiday pay (the particulars given being sufficient to enable the employee's entitlement, including any entitlement to accrued holiday pay on the termination of employment, to be precisely calculated)'.

Details to be given in the 'principal statement'

  • It is as well to point out here that it is no longer lawful for a written statement (or contract of employment) to refer an employee to the provisions of a collective agreement or to a staff handbook (or similar document) for information about his (or her) entitlement (if any) to public holidays and holiday pay. That information must be given in the principal statement. If the statement makes no mention of public holidays, an employee may ask an employment tribunal to intervene and to decide what information should have been included in the statement. If the employer responds by dismissing the employee, the dismissal will be held to have been unfair and the employer will be ordered to pay compensation. See also Dismissal for asserting a statutory right and Written particulars of terms of employment elsewhere in this handbook.

Working Time Regulations 1998

  • Given that there is no statutory right to paid bank or public holidays, employers may (subject to any contrary provision in their workers' contracts) offset paid bank and public holidays against their obligation under regulation 13 of the Working Time Regulations 1998 to provide four weeks' paid annual holidays to each of those workers. But, if those same workers have long enjoyed an express or implied contractual right to bank and public holidays, in addition to their paid annual holidays, it would be a breach of contract for the employer unilaterally to override that right in order to modify the impact of regulation 13. Furthermore, employing part-time, casual, or seasonal workers on terms and conditions less favourable to them than those enjoyed by comparable full-time employees within the same establishment will undoubtedly fall foul of the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000, let alone (in the case of temporary or fixed-term employees) the Fixed-term Employees, etc Regulations 2002.

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