Three questions on staffing public holidays in your business

Wednesday April 17, 2019

With public holidays approaching, you may well be wondering how best to manage your workforce to keep business running as usual.

Depending on the nature of your business, staff could either expect to have the usual public holidays off or be keen to get their leave requests approved. Some may have even been vocalising their important plans for some time now, in the hope that it will give them the edge over their colleagues. Others might desire holiday at either end of the bank holidays to extend their break, or could have cottoned on to this year’s rare calendar quirk: 17 days off using just 9 days holiday.

These situations can also raise questions about payment of overtime and holiday entitlement. Weren’t public holidays supposed to be relaxing?

They still can be. With some processes in place and knowledge of how best to manage your workforce around public holidays, you can ensure minimal disruption to your business and avoid a holiday headache. We have answered some of the most common questions on this topic below.

One: Do I have to give my staff public holidays off?

Typically, many businesses decide to close on public holidays and most employees are entitled to paid leave. The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 outlines the rules relating to holiday entitlement and public holidays.

Employees are entitled to one of the following and it is up to you as their employer to decide which one is most suitable for your business.

  • A paid day off on that day.
  • A paid day off within a month of that day.
  • An additional day of annual leave.
  • An additional day’s pay.

You may find that employees have an opinion on which one they would like and so it’s best to communicate with them well in advance of the holiday in question.

Rules differ for part-time employees and come down to hours worked in the weeks leading up to a public holiday and usual days of working. Ask us if you are unsure.

Two: My business is open on a public holiday; how do I balance holiday requests?

This can be tricky for a small or medium sized business. You need your business to operate, but will equally want to be fair to your workforce. Staff contracts should explain the rules surrounding work on public holidays and the following tips can help you to balance any requests for leave:

  • Use a fair process for approving holiday requests such as first come first served. Although a year in advance might not be so fair so beware the early birds.
  • Don’t disregard religious reasons for requesting holiday, it could lead to discrimination.
  • Encourage workers to make plans to avoid disappointment.
  • Use a holiday management system like The HR toolkit which comes with a holiday calendar.

Three: Do I need to adjust pay for those working on a public holiday?

If working on a public holiday is mandatory in your business the terms must be outlined in your employment contracts. You will need to adjust pay for those working unless they are receiving an extra day of leave instead. It’s important to note that the extra day off must be taken within one month of the public holiday in question.

Have unanswered questions?

As an employer it is your responsibility to provide workers with the correct holiday entitlement. Getting it wrong can see you facing an employment tribunal claim for breaching the law.

If you manage a diverse workforce who work a range of hours and days, calculating holiday can be complex. If you have unanswered questions regarding staffing on bank holidays, we can help.

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