State Funeral Bank Holiday – what are my obligations as an employer and what does this mean for my team?

 

Business owners, leaders and managers have only a few days to decide how to manage the additional bank holiday.

  

TL;DR – Be sensible and pragmatic. Ask your team what they want to do

  

Monday 19th September 2022, the date of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s State Funeral, will be a UK Bank Holiday. A statement released via the UK Government website says “Monday 19 September, the date of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s State Funeral, will be a national bank holiday”.


“This will allow individuals, businesses and other organisations to pay their respects to Her Majesty and commemorate Her reign, while marking the final day of the period of national mourning.”

“This bank holiday will operate in the same way as other bank holidays, and there is no statutory entitlement to time off. Employers may include bank holidays as part of a worker’s leave entitlement.“

This date marks the final day of the period of national mourning. UK Government advice is clear, to a point.

The way you manage the additional bank holiday is largely dependent on the wording of your contracts of employment, custom and practice in your business, and given the unique circumstances you’ll also need to be sensitive to the needs of your team.

The broad advice from the UK Government is that “this is a matter for discussion between individuals and their employer”. If nothing else, we’d advise you to take a sensible, pragmatic approach and ask your team what they want to do.

 

Here’s the answers to the FAQs we’ve been asked (so far)…

We’ve done our best to pull together a practical set of FAQs with sensible suggestions on how to manage the additional bank holiday. Please get in touch if you need specific advice for your business or organisation.

A note about our FAQs and examples: please do not interpret this article as formal guidance or legal advice. Our FAQs and examples are here to guide your decision-making process but we’d always suggest you consider in the broader context of your customer needs, contractual terms and your workplace culture.

 

Do I have to close my business on 19th September 2022?

  • No, if you would normally be open on Monday 19th September 2022 there is nothing in law to prevent you from opening as normal.

  • It’s worth bearing in mind that over the weekend we’ve all seen pictures and videos of the huge national outpouring of grief and celebration of Her late Majesty’s life.

  • It likely that you have customer, suppliers, key stakeholders and prospects who will want to celebrate the life of Queen Elizabeth II. By the same token there will be others who will not want to commemorate her reign and will want to escape the news coverage and media reporting.

  • This isn’t a royalist vs. republican ‘thing’; you need to do what’s right for your organisation.

  • You’ll also need to weigh-up the benefits and practicalities of staying open vs. closing, including whether you have enough team members available (which leads us nicely onto our next question…).

  

There is no legal requirement to close your business on 19th September 2022

   

Are schools, colleges and other government services going to be closed on 19th September 2022?

  • Yes, we understand that all public-sector schools will be closed on 19th September 2022. Colleges and Universities are also likely to be closed (TBC).

  • We also expect all UK Government Departments and Local Authority offices to be closed, although critical services such as the National Health Service and other 24/7 services will remain open. Please check with your local service providers for specific opening times.

  • Naturally, this means that families, parents and grandparents of school-age children will either need to find childcare within the next few days, or will need to talk to you about whether they can have the day off work.

  • We think it’s better to manage time-off as sensibly as possible, taking all the learnings from the agility and responsiveness shown by teams during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • If you can manage time-off without resorting to formal policies and procedures, particularly for families and working parents and grandparents, so much the better.

  

Schools will be closed on 19th September 2022

   

Does the bank holiday mean that I have to give employees the day off work?

  • In a word, no. There is no statutory entitlement to time off for bank holidays.

  • You don’t ‘have to’ give colleagues the day off but you might want to consider requests for annual leave if you’re not closing on 19th September 2022.

  • If you are closing and would normally be open, most (if not all) employees should be paid as normal if they’re available for work.

 

There is no statutory entitlement to time-off on a bank holiday

  

Interestingly, the UK Government has said:

  • The government cannot interfere in existing contractual arrangements between employers and workers.”

  • “However, we would expect that many workers will be able to take the day off on the bank holiday.”

  • “We also expect employers to respond sensitively to requests from workers who wish to take the day of the funeral off work.”

  

Are my employees entitled to an extra day’s holiday because of the additional bank holiday?

  • This one’s a bit more complicated. It depends on what your contract of employment says…

  • A key thing to remember: UK-based employees are entitled to a minimum of 20 days annual leave plus 8 statutory public/bank holidays each year.

Example 1 – your contract of employment states ‘employees are entitled to 20 days annual leave (statutory minimum) plus public/bank holidays’.

  • Yes, your employees are entitled to an extra day’s holiday.

  • Why? Because 19th September 2022 is public/bank holiday and the example contract wording doesn’t state (or limit) the number of public/bank holidays.

  • Don’t forget: part time workers are entitled to a pro-rata amount based on their working hours/pattern.

Example 2 – your contract of employment states ‘employees are entitled to 28 days annual leave including public/bank holidays’.

  • A probable interpretation of the wording would suggest ‘yes’, they’re entitled to an additional holiday.

  • Why? The statutory minimum of annual leave is 20 days and there will be 9 public holidays in 2022 (29 days)

  • Huh? The wording of the contract says ‘including’ public/bank holidays without specifying the exact number, but since offering <20 days annual leave is not legal, an additional day’s entitlement is implied.

  • Don’t forget: part time workers are entitled to a pro-rata amount based on their working hours/pattern.

Example 3 – your contract of employment states employees are entitled to >28 days annual leave including public/bank holidays, for example ‘35 days annual leave including public/bank holidays’.

  • A strict interpretation of the wording would suggest ‘no’, they’re not entitled to any additional holiday.

  • Why? You already offer greater than the statutory minimum of annual leave and public holidays, and the wording says ‘including’ without specifying the exact number.

  • Given the unique circumstances you may decide to grant the additional day either on-the-day or as an addition to your employees’ total time-off allowance for the year.

  

Check your contractual entitlement wording before making any decisions

  

This list isn’t intended to cover every situation. Naturally there may be other examples of working patterns and contractual entitlements. Always check your contracts before making any decisions and if you’re not sure, talk to your HR Business Partner or give us a call.

  

What is the UK Government advising employers to do?

There are so many different and unique contractual arrangements between employers and employees, it’s impossible to come-up with a list of instructions that will cover all eventualities. The UK Government has put out a press release which covers the basics. You can read the full press release on the UK Government website.

  

There is no ‘one size fits all’ set of instructions for employers

   

Four practical things to do this week

  • Make a decision, ideally by mid-week to give you plenty of time to communicate what’s going on. For your team, the earlier you can decide the better, especially if they’re going to need to make arrangements for childcare. This is important for everyone, including your customers. If you are closing, make sure you update your Google Maps listing and other directories where you publicise your opening hours, otherwise your team might come back to complaints from people trying to reach you.

  • Get HR and/or legal advice (if you need to). If your contractual entitlements or working arrangements are complex, don’t be afraid to get some help from your HR and legal advisors. It’s best to be safe.

  • Update your HR / Annual Leave system with the additional bank holiday. If you use a service provider they’ll probably have a help page on their knowledge base to help you get this done. Just bear in mind they can’t make the decision on how to handle the additional day, so if you decide to give everyone an additional day off, you’ll probably need to do a bulk upload/change of annual leave entitlement too.

  • Remind your employees about your Employee Assistance Programme. Over the weekend we’ve seen how many people have come out to share their grief and celebrate the life of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Some people in your team may have been deeply affected by the death of The Queen, they may need to access the wellbeing services via your Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). Similarly there may be people in your team who do not support the monarchy or the Royal Family and have been triggered by the events of the past few days; they too may benefit from the services of your EAP.

  

Don’t know where to start?

There’s only a few days to make arrangements and communicate with your team and your customers.

If you’re struggling to wade through contractual entitlements and the practicalities of the additional bank holiday, feel free to give me a call for support and advice.