Employment law expert offers Queen funeral advice

13 September 2022

Employees have been advised to check their contracts to find out whether they are entitled to have Monday’s Bank Holiday off for Her Majesty The Queen’s funeral.

King Charles III approved the Bank Holiday as the UK prepares to lay Queen Elizabeth to rest in a State Funeral watched by a worldwide audience.

Many businesses have announced they will close for the day as a mark of respect to the country’s longest reigning monarch.

But Jayne Holliday, Legal Director in the employment law team at West Midlands law firm Higgs LLP, has warned workers that they shouldn’t assume they automatically have the additional day off work.

She said: “There is no statutory right for people to have the day off. Ultimately, it is down to what is in an individual’s contract.

“Many contracts will entitle an employee to a certain number of days annual leave plus Bank Holidays, but others will say X number of days annual leave plus the eight usual Bank Holidays.

“If a contract stipulates the usual Bank Holidays, then it will not automatically cover this additional Bank Holiday and a discussion will need to be held between employer and employee.”

Any worker who is not entitled to the day off but refuses to work could face disciplinary action.

Jayne said the situation could change if the business has opted to close for the day. 

She added: “If the doors are closed and an employee can’t come in then businesses should give them the day off and pay them as the employee has fulfilled their contract in being ‘ready and able for work’.

“In this case, employers cannot force their workers to take a day out of their annual leave entitlement.

“If it’s possible to work from home then that could be a possibility, but that isn’t going to feasible for everyone. For example, many will face childcare issues if there are children at home who are usually at nursery or school.

“Employees are entitled to take Dependants’ Leave, which is unpaid leave for unexpected circumstances.”

The Government has said it “expects employers to respond sensitively to requests from workers who wish to take the day of the funeral off work”.

And Jayne said businesses should also consider the PR and reputational implications of decisions.

“Businesses could face a social media backlash if they force people to work on Monday, which is clearly an historic day for the country.

“My advice would be to examine what others in the sector are doing.

“But there are, of course, businesses which can’t just shut down either for practical or financial reasons and some people will be required to work.

“If that’s the case, I’d advise employers to consider how they could mark the day, whether that is by offering an extended lunch break to watch part of the ceremony or having the service playing on the radio.”

There is likely to be another additional Bank Holiday in 2023 for King Charles’ coronation.

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