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  • Writer's pictureSusan Wakelin

Can an employee refuse to work a Bank Holiday?

Updated: May 25, 2023


Bank Holidays

There are normally eight bank holidays in a year in England and Wales, nine in Scotland and ten in Northern Ireland, and there will be an additional bank holiday next year for the King's coronation.


What are employees really entitled to?


Can employees refuse to work a bank holiday?


Whether an employee has the right to take a bank holiday off, will depend on their contract of employment. If an employee does not have the contractual right to take the day off and refuses to work, they may be subject to disciplinary action.


Employees may, however, request to take the day off, and employers should only refuse the request where there is a good business reason and ensure that all requests are treated in line with their usual holiday request procedure to ensure consistency.


Where an employee's contract of employment allows them to take "all" bank and public holidays, the employer cannot insist they work and cannot discipline them for refusing to work. Should an employee, however, agree to work the bank holiday, employers should ensure they offer a day off in lieu of the bank holiday.


Are employees entitled to extra pay for working a bank holiday?


It is not uncommon for employers to offer increased pay for working a bank holiday to encourage employees to work.


However, there is no legal right for an employee to receive enhanced pay for working a bank holiday, and again this will depend on what is written in the employee's contract of employment. Where the contract is unclear, employees may also rely on what they have been offered verbally and/or what has happened in practice in the past.


What Bank Holidays are part-time employees entitled to?


Part-time employees may work on different days of the week. Employers who offer only those that work on the day that a bank holiday falls the day off, may put some part-time workers at a disadvantage and others at an advantage. One way to ensure that all part-time workers are treated fairly in line with full-time workers, in relation to holidays and bank holidays, is to pro-rate the full-time entitlement according to the number of hours part-time employees work.


Do employees have the right to take the additional Bank Holiday off for the King's Coronation?


The government has confirmed there will be an additional bank holiday on Monday, 8 May 2023 to celebrate the King's coronation.


Where employees always take bank and public holidays off work and it is written in their contract of employment that they are entitled to take "all" bank and public holidays, they will be able to take the bank holiday off for the King's coronation.


However, if not, an employee does not automatically have the right to take the day off. Although, the employer may choose to allow employees to take the day off as a goodwill gesture.


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