Happy Easter – but not necessarily a four-day weekend for everyone: Are you entitled to time off work on the Easter Bank Holidays?

4th April 2023

As well as being one of the most significant dates in the Christian calendar, Good Friday is the start of what for many people is a four-day weekend.  And with Covid-19 restrictions disrupting bank holidays significantly over the last couple of years, people in the UK will be hoping to make up for lost time this Easter.  In fact, up to 17 million leisure trips are predicted to be made over the upcoming Easter weekend, but that begs the question: Are you entitled to time off work on Good Friday and Easter Monday?

The law does not give employees an automatic legal right to time off work for a bank holiday. Instead, this entitlement will depend on the wording of the contract of employment.  Employers can decide whether to give time off or not depending on their business needs.  If the worker is not given time off for bank holidays they still need to receive 5.6 working weeks of annual leave as a minimum

Where employers give employees a contractual right to receive time off work for bank holidays, the wording in the contract is important.  A contract stating the employee has 28 days plus bank holidays means they receive 28 days holiday with the bank holidays on top.  A clause stating the employee has 28 days inclusive of bank holidays generally means the employee gets 20 days holiday and eight days holiday to take for bank or public holidays if they are employed in England and Wales.

Employers also need to be aware that the timing of their holiday leave year could result in the employee receiving more time off in one year than the other. This is prevalent when the holiday year runs April – March and Easter falls earlier than usual as this could result in the employee receiving more bank holidays one year than the next.  It is important that the employee is still receiving their minimum holiday entitlement in the year with fewer bank holidays.

A policy requiring all staff to work bank holidays and refusing any time off could however could lead to claims of indirect discrimination where the request is for religious observance of a bank holiday with religious significance, for example, Good Friday and Easter Monday.  Employers may be able to justify such a policy if they have a legitimate aim and their means of achieving this is proportionate.  Employers should examine each request on its own merits to determine if this can be granted to remove the risk.

If you would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact me at harriet.driscoll@smb.london.