The royal wedding - are employees entitled to leave?

Many employees will be eager to watch the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton on 29 April 2011 but the key question for employers is whether employees are entitled to this day off, says Kevin James, Partner and Head of Employment Law at Brabners Chaffe Street in Preston.

There are currently eight bank and public holidays in England and Wales, however, 29 April 2011 will be declared a ‘special’ bank holiday, by royal proclamation.

It is a common misconception that employees have a statutory right to take leave on bank or public holidays.

Despite having no statutory entitlement to the holiday, contractual terms do prevail, and employers should check the provisions of employment contracts, in case leave is granted under these.

It may also be that employees have developed a customary entitlement to take leave on all bank and public holidays, and that this will amount to an implied contractual term. With this in mind employers should check how the business dealt with the most recent special bank holidays, being 31 December 1999 and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in June 2002.

Many employers will also consider the ‘goodwill’ gesture of allowing employees leave for this event regardless of the contractual position. At a time where many companies are not increasing salaries or giving bonuses this can be a crucial part of building and preserving staff morale.

Therefore, smaller businesses in particular will have to balance their genuine concerns that the extra day off will have a significant impact on productivity against the resentment likely to be caused amongst staff by requiring them to work at a time when the majority of workers are joining in the national celebrations.

Kevin James
Brabners Chaffe Street