It may seem as though Christmas was only a few weeks ago, but Easter is almost upon us. Which means that the Bank Holiday Season is with us too. Bank holidays and Public Holidays are enshrined in most countries law. But many shift workers find themselves working across multiple national holidays.
We spoke to HR expert Dianne Murray from Crispin Rhodes to find out what the law says about shift workers and bank holidays in the UK. We found that some common questions crop up, and the answers are not what we expected.
Do we have a right to have bank holidays off work?
The answer is no. There is no statutory right for employees to take bank holidays off work. Any right to time off depends on the terms of your contract of employment. Where there is no written statement, or written contract of employment, the rights relating to time off for bank holidays will depend either on what has been verbally agreed. Or on custom and practice.
But we have the right to extra pay, right?
No again. If you work on a bank holiday you have no statutory right to extra pay.
Any right to extra pay depends on the terms of your contract of employment.
While an employer might have time-and-a-half or double pay as a custom or practice, they are not obliged by law to offer it in their contract of employment.
If a shift-working employee is not scheduled to work on a bank holiday, are they entitled to an additional day’s holiday?
According to the law, shift workers have the right not to be treated less favourably than a comparable full-time worker. This includes entitlement to bank holidays. But the rights are on a pro rata basis. As a shift worker, you have the right receive a pro-rated entitlement if bank holidays are included in your statutory minimum holiday entitlement. Or if your employer grants an entitlement that exceeds the statutory minimum to its full-time workers.
The best practice approach recommended in government guidance is for shift employees to have a pro-rated allowance for paid bank holidays. This is irrespective of whether or not they normally work on the days on which bank holidays fall.
Easter is a religious holiday, do people of faith have the right to refuse to work?
If you are required to work on bank holidays under the terms of your employment contract, then you cannot refuse to work, even for religious reasons.
You do, however, have rights under religious discrimination laws. And if you are refused time off for any of the bank holidays with religious significance, it could amount to indirect religious discrimination. Particularly if it places you at a disadvantage when compared with employees of other faiths, or non-religious employees.
However, the best way to deal with this is to organise your shift pattern early to make sure such disagreements are nipped in the bud.
How can we make sure we get what we are entitled to?
The best advice is always to refer to your contract of employment, which you should review regularly with your HR department. If you think you are being refused your rights under your contract, then your union rep or an employment solicitor will be able to clarify your position.
Everything is dependent on your contract of employment, so make sure you understand this fully and all its implications.
On top of that, make sure you track your annual leave with MyShiftPlanner, to see how many days you have remaining each year, how many you’ve taken and a full list of all days you have left to take.
In our Pro Pack, you can make use of a great collaboration features, which will allow your partner/colleague/family access to see your MyShiftPlanner calendar.
It also gives great tools to check for common days off (to plan a break) and make sure you make most of the days you do have off, whether they are bank holidays or not.