Myth of the month: Do I have to work on a bank holiday?
It’s up to your employer to decide whether or not you have to work on bank holidays. There is no general legal right to time off on bank holidays, whether or not they are in the school holidays and regardless of what festivals you celebrate. And there is no general legal right to extra-pay if you do work on a bank holiday. So check your contract and your employer’s policy.
If you work part-time, you’ll be entitled to fewer statutory holiday days each year than if you were full-time. Employers usually give part-time workers a pro-rated allowance of paid bank holidays, irrespective of whether or not they normally work on the days on which bank holidays fall.
If your place of work is closed on bank holidays, your employer can make you take them as part of your annual leave. If you would normally work on those days, then any time off needs to be booked in the usual way as annual leave. You can also ask your employer to take parental leave, but this is unpaid, requires 21 days’ notice and usually has to be taken in chunks of one week; do check the rules. And your employer can ‘refuse’ both annual leave and parental leave for the dates you request it (by postponing your leave to another time). In the case of parental leave, they can only refuse if your absence would seriously disrupt the business.
So, what can you do if your employer does refuse you time off on days where you simply can’t get childcare? If you are a woman, you may have an argument of indirect sex discrimination. You’d have to show how the refusal inconvenienced you, and explain why you thought the refusal wasn’t necessary. If your employer can justify making you work on those days, because they can’t run their service without you, the discrimination may not be unlawful.
Otherwise, it’s possible in some cases there could be direct discrimination, but only if you didn’t get the time off because of a protected characteristic, for example, you’re a man, and a woman doing your job would be given the time off. Even then, it may not be discrimination if annual leave for popular days operates on a rota system, for example, where people get the early May bank holiday off every few years.
Do remember, if you are refused the time off, it’s not a good idea to simply not turn up to work on Good Friday, or any other day when you feel you really should have leave. If you can’t find childcare, then carry on trying to make alternative arrangements (and keep a note of your attempts to find childcare). Taking a day off at short notice in an emergency is a right called Time Off for Dependants, but it does need to be an emergency, when no other solution is possible. If you really can’t work, make sure you tell your employer, in writing, of the reasons why you are not available and how long your absence is likely to last. If your employer takes any disciplinary action, get advice as soon as you can.
If you’re not clear on your rights, make sure you get in touch with us before then!