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Blame it on the moon: The headache of managing bank holiday allowance.

Published 07 July 2015

Bank holidays are traditionally a time when employees can relax and enjoy a long weekend – but they are now giving some employers an extra headache to deal with.

In England and Wales, there are usually eight bank and public holidays.  In Scotland, there are nine bank and public holidays.  In Northern Ireland, there are 10 bank and public holidays.

Employees are entitled to 28 days’ leave per year, which can include bank holidays.

Many companies have an annual leave year that runs 1 April to 31 March, with employees entitled to ’20 days’ holiday plus bank holidays’ –and this can create a problem that needs to be addressed.

This is purely down to the Easter break, which varies from year to year. It is based on the lunar calendar and celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon, on or after 21 March.

This year Good Friday fell on 3 April with Easter Monday on 6 April.  Next year the Christian festival is earlier; with Good Friday on 25 March and Easter Monday on 28 March.

This means two Easter breaks fall within the annual leave year running from 1 April, 2015, to 31 March, 2016. 

So, although employees may look forward to a couple of bonus days off or extra opportunities to earn time and a half or double time pay - there is a downside.

In 2017, Easter is later, with Good Friday falling on 14 April and Easter Monday on 17 April. This means for the holiday year running 1 April, 2016, to 31 March, 2017, there will be just six bank holidays - two less than usual. 

Businesses with employment contracts entitling staff to ’20 days’ holiday plus bank holidays’ will be expected to honour them. 

These companies will also have to top up leave entitlement for employees for 1 April, 2016, to 31 March, 2017, to ensure workers retain their 28-day statutory entitlement.

Employers cannot simply ignore this matter and fail to act believing the extra holiday entitlement for 2015 - 2016 will even itself out the following year.

Businesses can either foot the bill for additional paid holidays for 2015 – 2016 or agree a variation to the terms of contract.  Any change without agreement will be a breach of contract.

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