Many have welcomed the news of the additional day’s holiday in 2011 for the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. However, for many employers the feeling may not be mutual.

The Working Time Regulations 1998 currently entitle a worker to 5.6 weeks paid annual leave per year, subject to a maximum of 28 days.

Employers may of course offer more generous contractual holiday entitlement than this statutory minimum.

Strictly speaking, there is no additional or separate right to paid leave for bank or public holidays. However, the 28 day entitlement is often interpreted as meaning 20 days plus the 8 bank and public holidays.

As we now know, the Royal Wedding will take place on the 29 April 2011 and this will be a public holiday. In the following year, there will be another additional public holiday on 5 June 2012 for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

What will this mean in practice?
Employers will no doubt be asked by staff whether they will receive pay for these extra days and whether they will have to work.

Unfortunately, there is not one easy answer which can be given to employers.

The answer will depend upon the actual wording of the employee’s employment contract in relation to holiday entitlement. It is advisable that employers now check the relevant employment contracts to ascertain the position and inform their employees.

As a practical example; if the contract states that the employee is entitled to 20 days leave plus all public and bank holidays in England and Wales, then this is very likely to mean that they will be entitled to paid leave in respect of these additional public holidays.

On the other hand, if the contract states that the employee is entitled to a set number of days leave in addition to the usual public and bank holidays there is an argument that the extra public holiday should not be included since it does not form one of the usual 8 days. In this case the employee would then need to take this day as part of their annual leave entitlement if they did not want to work on that day.

Similarly an entitlement of 28 days holiday including bank and public holidays would not give any opening for additional days leave and the employee would have to take the leave out of their 28 day allowance if they want to take a day’s paid holiday for the Royal Wedding.

Of course you could exercise your discretion to grant employees an additional day’s leave on this day even if they would not be entitled to it under their contract. You may decide that the positive impact on morale would justify the cost.

You should also consider what steps you have taken in the past to deal with bank and public holidays and how you intend to deal with the additional day in 2012 so there is consistency of approach.

Another issue which will be relevant for some employers is payment of enhanced rates on bank and public holidays. Again, this will come down to the wording of the contract and also, to the practice which has developed.

Part-timers
Bank holidays and holiday entitlement can often cause issues in relation to part time employees. The Part Time Worker (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 provide protection for part time employees against discrimination on the basis of their part time status. Your approach must be consistent for all employees – which will usually require a pro-rata approach for part timers.

Action Points
Check the employment contracts of your employees
Consider how the entitlement will operate for part time employees
Issue a communication to staff to clarify the situation
Consider your arrangements for dealing with staff holiday requests – there will now be three public or bank holidays in April 2011 which may require you to deal with holiday requests carefully to ensure you have sufficient cover during this period
Seek legal advice if you are unsure about what your intended position should be in relation to entitlement or dealing with holiday requests generally.