News and Events

Public holidays and your legal obligations

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Since the glorious Easter weekend we’ve received a number of queries regarding staff holiday and pay entitlement. With more bank and public holidays on the horizon, we wanted to share the answers to some of the most asked questions…

1. What’s the difference between public holidays and bank holidays?

For most practical purposes there is no difference, which is why the terms are used interchangeably. Bank holidays are set by statute and public holidays (such as Good Friday and Christmas Day) derived from common law. It is more common practice now in employment to refer to them all generically as ‘Public holidays’ to avoid confusion.

2. Should employees automatically receive the public holidays off?

Contrary to popular belief, there is no statutory right for employees to take time off (other than on ‘bank holidays’, bank employees cannot be required to work under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971). Whether your employees work, or are paid, is determined by their contract of employment. The contract should clearly explain how the public holidays are to be taken and whether they are; worked and paid; taken as holiday and paid; business closed and unpaid or any other variation.  Check that your contracts are current and do not use the term ‘statutory entitlement plus public holidays’ as the statutory minimum increased in 2009 and your staff may be entitled to more than you're giving them.

3. Are part-time employees required to take public holidays as leave if it falls on their non-working day?

No, part-time employees will receive a pro-rated amount of their holiday allowance and should a bank holiday fall on their non-contracted day, they are not required to have their annual leave entitlement deducted to cover it. If a part-time employee is contracted to work on a public holiday, the day will come out of their holiday allowance.

4. Do we need to pay employees extra for working on public holidays?

There is no legal obligation to pay extra for staff required to work on public holidays.  However sometimes there is a custom and practice within the business to pay ‘time and a half’ or double time’ and this would therefore continue.  The employee’s contract however should explain who gets paid extra and for what, and whether anyone can be asked to work on a public holiday under their ‘standard’ terms (or whether there is a rota in place for working on public holidays).  If an employee is required to work on public holidays under the terms of their contract the employee cannot refuse to work - even for religious reasons.

5. We need people to work on a public holiday, how should we organise who works and who doesn't?

Often contracts require staff to work on public holidays; therefore there is a rush for staff repeatedly requesting time off on forthcoming public holidays.  Your policy on holiday bookings should be clear on this point as to whether it applies a first come first serve, rota basis or other such process to be applied fairly in making decision where there is ‘over demand’ to avoid favouritism or discrimination. 

Some companies have applied preferential treatment for people with school age children etc however these types of arrangements can often result in indirect discrimination so should be considered with caution.  Employers should be aware that refusal to grant employees time off for holidays with religious significance could amount to indirect religious discrimination if it places them at a particular disadvantage compared with employees of other faiths.

If you would like more advice regarding employee entitlement, get in touch for a friendly and informal chat about your business needs today. Call 01622 759 900 or email


2019 Bank and Public Holidays:

  • New Year’s Day: Tuesday 1 January
  • New Year’s Holiday: Wednesday 2 January (Scotland only)
  • St Patrick’s Day: Monday 18 March (Northern Ireland only)
  • Good Friday: Friday 19 April
  • Easter Monday: Monday 22 April (England, Wales and Northern Ireland only)
  • Early May bank holiday: Monday 6 May 
  • Spring bank holiday: Monday 27 May
  • Battle of the Boyne: Friday 12 July (Northern Ireland only)
  • Summer bank holiday: Monday 5 August (Scotland only)
  • Summer bank holiday: Monday 26 August (England, Wales and Northern Ireland only)
  • St Andrew’s Day: Monday 2 December (Scotland only)
  • Christmas Day: Wednesday 25 December 
  • Boxing Day: Thursday 26 December