Coronation Bank Holiday – the right to a day off?
As has been widely anticipated and much discussed across the country, on Saturday 6th May 2023, King Charles III will be formally coronated as King. Not only will this be a historic day for the country, for many, it will also result in an additional 3-day weekend, as Monday 8th May is an additional May bank holiday this year.
However, with the coronation itself taking place on the Saturday, many employers may be wondering whether they are legally required to grant employees the additional bank holiday as paid time off. Others are likely considering the commercial implications of the extra public holiday and the national celebrations more generally.
Are employees entitled to the bank holiday as paid time-off?
Legally speaking, employees don’t automatically have a statutory right to take paid time off for a bank holiday. However it is possible that they have been given the right through their contract of employment. For that reason, whether or not bank holidays are included in an employee’s annual leave entitlement (and are therefore paid) will come down to the contract itself.
Generally speaking, annual leave is covered in employment contracts in the following ways:
- The contract confirms that the employee is entitled to X days of annual leave in addition to bank and public holidays. In this instance an employer will have to grant their employees a paid day off for the coronation as they are contractually entitled to the time off.
- The contract confirms that the employee is entitled to X days of annual leave in addition to the normal/ usual bank and public holidays. In this instance the position is less clear, as technically speaking the upcoming bank holiday is a one-off for the coronation and is therefore not “normal” or “usual”. However, if an employer granted their employees an additional day off on full pay for the bank holiday for the Queen’s funeral last year, then employees might argue that the employer has set a precedent of allowing exceptional bank holidays as an additional day of annual leave on full pay, as the bank holiday for the Queen’s funeral was also not “normal” or “usual”.
- The contract confirms that the employee is entitled to X days of annual leave which includes their entitlement to bank and public holidays. In this instance an employer does not have to grant their employees an additional paid day off for the coronation as the day will be included in their current annual leave allowance. Save for, of course, if the wording here includes normal/usual bank holidays only, in which case employers will be in the same position as scenario 2 above.
In addition to the above contractual considerations, some employers may choose to close their business for the coronation or the following bank holiday. If this is the case, employers should consult their employment contracts, as there may be a requirement to pay the employee for the day, unless they can rely on a clause in the contract which confirms that an employer can request that an employee uses their annual leave for days on which the office is closed.
Is this a moral decision rather than a legal one?
As with the Queen’s funeral, this may be a situation where the question is more moral rather than legal. For such an historic event and a time of national celebration, employers may want to consider whether a gesture of goodwill might be the morally right thing to do. In this case, the day would be treated as additional leave without impacting the employee’s pay or annual leave allowance for the year. Some employers may also need to be mindful of their public reputation in the event they do not grant the bank holiday to employees and whether not granting the day might be seen as disrespectful or counter intuitive to the announced purpose of the day, which is to allow for the celebration for the coronation to continue and for families and communities to come together.
What are the practical issues?
Unlike the bank holiday for the Queen’s funeral, the coronation has not been scheduled to take place on a weekday and will instead be taking place on a Saturday. The coronation date and bank holiday were also announced much further in advance given the nature of the event and the planning that would be required.
On that basis, given the considerable advance notice of the bank holiday, employers may struggle to justify not granting the day off for employees, given that critical deadlines or business critical meetings or events are not likely to have been scheduled on that day in the first instance.
However, irrespective of the advance notice, there are some employers who, given the nature of their work (such as healthcare, public services and hospitality), are likely to have to continue working (and in some cases for extended hours). In these cases, employers will need to consider what the contractual position is in respect of working on national or bank holidays and whether they will be caught by contractual entitlements to overtime or time off in lieu.
In this respect, the hospitality sector will need to be mindful that pub opening hours will be extended to 1am for the Friday and Saturday of the coronation weekend and as such, employers will need to consider not only the contractual position on overtime or time off in lieu but also their national minimum wage requirements if they’re extending shifts.
For those employers grappling with whether to allow employees time off for the coronation weekend or the coronation bank holiday, it will be a balancing act between the legal, commercial and moral positions. Ultimately it may be that the moral and practical considerations override the legal requirements, but either way, any decision will need to be communicated clearly with employees ahead of the weekend.
If you would like assistance with reviewing employment contracts and policies ahead of the bank holiday weekend, please contact our employment team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.
Solicitor, Employment Law
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