David Ogilvy & Elizabeth Bremner: A right Royal holiday… paid or unpaid

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In recent weeks, the country has been celebrating the marriage of Prince William to Catherine Middleton. Such was the level of interest, a public holiday was created on 29th April in order to allow the British public to commemorate the wedding day. Thousands descended on London to experience the celebrations first hand, while countless others made plans for their own royal celebrations.

While preparations were made for the big day, many employers across the country arranged for their offices to be closed in order to allow their employees to enjoy the holiday. Others questioned whether their staff were entitled to take the day off and how this would fit with their ordinary annual leave entitlement. This article examines this issue in more detail.

Statutory entitlement?

Currently workers are entitled to a statutory 5.6 weeks of annual leave in any working year, inclusive of public holidays.

The question which arises is whether or not employees are automatically entitled to paid leave for public holidays on top of their annual entitlement, or whether these are included in the 5.6 weeks. It seems that, particularly in relation to ‘special’ public holidays such as the Royal Wedding, but also for public and bank holidays in general, there is an assumption among employees that they will automatically be entitled to paid time off work.

This is not, in fact, the case. Whether or not someone receives paid time off for public holidays depends on the terms of their contract of employment. There is no statutory entitlement to paid leave on bank holidays or public holidays. Should an employer choose to allow their staff to take the day off, paid, this can legitimately be counted towards the holiday entitlement of those employees. Furthermore, if an office remains open during a bank or public holiday, employees are not entitled by law to an increased wage for the day, which appears to be another common misconception.

Terms of the contract of employment

The terms and conditions on which people do or do not work public and bank holidays depend entirely on the contract of employment concerned. If the contract provides for the treatment of bank holidays i.e. “twenty eight days of holiday per year, and, in addition, public holidays and bank holidays”, employees will be entitled to paid leave on these days. If, however, the contract is silent on public holidays (i.e. “six weeks of holidays”) then, on the wording of the contract, the employee will not automatically be entitled to paid leave for public holidays. There are various forms such a clause may take, for example, specific holidays may be permitted or excluded under the contract.

If a forthcoming public holiday is not an automatic entitlement, it may be wise to alert employees to this fact in order to allow them to request holidays for this date under the usual procedure.

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About David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy, Partner in employment law and litigation, Turcan Connell

David specialises in litigation and employment law. He is accredited as a specialist in employment law by the Law Society of Scotland and has over 19 years’ experience of contentious matters in a wide range of areas. He previously served a 5 year term as part-time Chairman with the Employment Tribunal.

David has a wealth of experience in all aspects of employment law as they impact upon individuals. His experience includes representing directors and other senior executives and advising in all areas relating to their relationship with the company, e.g. service agreements, restrictive covenants and other contractual matters and all legal issues arising out of the relationship and its termination.

David acts for a number of high profile charitable organisations in Scotland on all aspects of managing relationships with the work force and represents not for profit clients at tribunals. He has experience of both non-unionised and trade unionised work places and relevant negotiating structures enabling him to advise on practical issues which arise on a day-to-day basis.

Turcan Connell’s comprehensive employment law advice extends to all areas affecting agricultural estates and enterprises and charities, from recruitment to termination.

Chambers UK describes David Ogilvy as heading the three-person team, and is praised for "doing quality work". He is also "widely respected for his contentious employment work".

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