Workplace unrest could mar Jubilee celebrations

As Britain gears up for a four-day bank holiday weekend to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the celebrations could be marred with unrest in many workplaces if employers fail to treat staff fairly or in accordance with their contracts over pay and holiday entitlement.

The Spring Bank Holiday, which usually falls on the last Monday of May, is being moved to this Thursday. Friday June 3 has been designated as an extra bank holiday.

I’ve recently seen a spike in inquiries from employers leading up to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, which is being marked by an additional bank holiday.

Sectors such as care, hospitality and leisure, manufacturing, transport, logistics and retailing are among those where issues are arising and, if they are not resolved, could trigger discontent if employers act unfairly.

Employers have been inundated with requests for holidays to be taken over this weekend, with many people planning to go away.

They are facing unusual and complex circumstances due to the extra bank holiday and the switch from Monday.

Holiday issues at the best of times can be difficult to deal with, especially in relation to part-time staff or those who work irregular hours. With the extra bank holiday, there is more potential for conflict.

Key issues involve pay, whether bank holidays are included or not in leave entitlement, and whether employers can make their staff work as they look for ways to keep their businesses functioning.

Many employers do not fully understand where they stand, and are struggling about whether they have to give people the bank holidays off and how to manage the situation.

It is causing particular problems in relation to part-time staff, as many don’t work on Fridays. Some are asking whether they are still entitled to the extra day’s pay, as it is a bank holiday.

Because there is no statutory right to bank holiday leave and pay under the Working Time Regulations, employers must look at the contracts they have in place to understand their staff’s holiday leave and pay entitlement.

Provided the employment contract is expressly clear, employees can be required to work on a bank holiday.

However, part-time employees should not be treated less favourably than those working full-time, otherwise they could pursue a discrimination claim.

The same applies to other employees. Employers must respect those with protected characteristics at work and deal with everyone fairly and equally.

If full-time employees are being given an extra bank holiday, then part-time employees should be offered the same, even if they do not usually work on that day.

At the same time, employees should be mindful of their employers’ needs, as they will have to absorb one less day of productivity or service this year, and the cost can be high.

In my experience, problems often occur when contracts are not clearly defined.

It’s imperative that employers take advice and ensure contracts are well drafted to avoid conflict and potential discrimination or grievance claims.

Sarah Williams is the head of employment at Blackburn-based Taylors Solicitors, which specialises in all aspects of commercial law. Its team of dynamic and highly-experienced lawyers are committed to providing the highest quality service through a real understanding of clients’ needs, business priorities and specific requirements.