Royal wedding bank holiday

Prince William and Kate Middleton announced they will wed on the 29th April 2011.

The government quickly followed by declaring the day as a bank holiday, much to the delight of millions of employees across the country!

However reports suggest the cost to the UK economy and business will exceed £5 billion pounds by creating consecutive 4 day weekends with Good Friday (22nd), Easter Monday (25th), New bank holiday (29th) and May Bank (2nd May).

It seems there has been little regard for the costly impact this decision will have on businesses.

Taylors Solicitors has already received numerous enquiries from employers about their legal obligation to recognise the bank holiday.

Whether or not an employer must recognise the extra bank holiday depends on what the contractual position is with your employees.

Those employers who allocate a set number of days annual leave regardless of bank holidays or those employers that specifically set out in the contract which Bank Holidays they will recognise will be unaffected – they can insist that either the employee works if the business is open or they use a day from their usual annual leave entitlement where the business closes or the employee wishes to observe it (subject to the employers holiday policy and booking requirements).

Matters are more complex for those with contracts which state 20 + bank holidays.

Clearly when the contracts were issued and agreed, the employer intended this clause to cover the normal 8 bank holidays in the year. Employers will seek to argue this as the correct interpretation.

Employees will however rely on an old latin rule of contractual interpretation (contra preferentum) which states that any ambiguous term will be construed against the part that imposed its inclusion in the contract ie the employer.

If the employee is successful but been denied the right to take the day off paid then claims for unlawful deduction of wages and breach of contract may follow.

Employees will argue that there are existing laws which allow for bank holidays to be changed or moved or other days to be declared and this should have been excluded for by the employer.

For example 2012 will see the Queens Jubilee celebrated by moving the late May bank holiday to Monday 4th June and also declaring a further bank holiday on Tuesday 5th June – yet more bad news for employers!

With the above in mind all employers need to consider carefully their approach to the royal wedding bank holiday.

A balance needs to be struck between complying with the terms of your contracts, the importance of staff morale and the need to operate your business on that day.

Oliver McCann
Taylors Solicitors