MT Expert - Legal: What does the Royal wedding mean for SMEs?

The Middleton/Windsor union - and the bank holiday it affords - needn't be a royal disaster for your business, explains DLA Piper's Guy Lamb.

Last Updated: 25 Mar 2011

After years of 'will they?' or 'won't they?' Prince William and Kate Middleton will finally tie the knot on 29 April 2011 and, to the delight of the nation, the day has been declared an additional public holiday. Hurrah. For employers, however, careful consideration must now be given to how to implement this holiday in the workplace.   

First things first: do employers have to allow all staff the extra day off?

Many employers will want to find a way to allow their employees to benefit from this extra holiday. However, it is not an automatic entitlement.   

There is no statutory right to take public holidays and whether or not a worker is entitled to be off work on a public holiday is a matter determined by the contract between the employer and the worker. If the contract entitles the worker to x days' holiday inclusive of bank and public holidays, then the additional public holiday will have no effect on the overall contractual entitlement. If the contract entitles the worker to x days' holiday plus bank and public holidays, they will be contractually entitled to an additional day.

How do employers deal with part-time employees who don't work on Fridays?

Part-time employees are entitled not to be treated less favourably than full-time employees on a pro-rata basis. As such, if full-time staff are to be entitled to an additional public holiday in 2011 (either under their contract or because an additional day's leave is being granted), part-time employees must be entitled to this extra leave on a pro-rata basis. In most cases this will mean that, for 2011, the pro-rata calculations of holiday for part-timers should be based on an annual total of 9, rather than 8, public holidays. Part-time employees who don't work on Fridays should be entitled to take their pro-rated leave at another time to ensure that they are not treated less favourably than full-time employees.

Will staff who are absent on sick or maternity leave be entitled to the extra public holiday?

The situation will be different depending on whether the absence is due to sick leave or maternity leave. In either case,  entitlement to the extra public holiday will depend, in the first instance, on whether the individual is contractually entitled to public holidays (see above).  Where they are contractually entitled:

• For a sick employee, the position will then depend on what the contract says about holiday accrual during sickness absence. Many contracts do not specify what happens to holiday during sickness absence, in which case the employee will be entitled to the additional holiday.  
• Employees on maternity leave are entitled to accrue holiday in the same way as employees at work, including public holidays, although a woman cannot take holiday during her maternity leave.

In both cases, if the employees are not contractually entitled to the holiday but the employer decides to grant it anyway, employees on sick leave or maternity leave should also be given the additional holiday.  If they do not, there is a risk of discrimination claims. 

What notification should employers give to staff about their holiday entitlement in 2011?
Employers would be advised to notify employees about their holiday entitlement in 2011 as soon as possible. Many employees will assume that they are entitled to take the additional public holiday (or to have time off in lieu if they have to work that day). If this is not the case, the sooner employees are notified the less potential there is for serious disputes arising. If employees are entitled to the additional public holiday, or the employer decides to grant it anyway, employers should consider whether to put in place specific arrangements for the allocation of annual leave during this period. Demand to take annual leave in the three days between the two four day weekends in April is likely to be high.  

Guy Lamb is employment partner at DLA Piper.

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