2020 May bank holiday change – how will it affect workers?

By BrightHR CEO and HR expert, Alan Price

To mark the 75th anniversary of VE day in May 2020, the government has confirmed that it will move the early May bank holiday in that year to Friday 8th May. This bank holiday usually falls on the first Monday in May.

Whilst bank holiday adjustments in recent years have increased the number of bank holidays – in 2012, for example, to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee – that will not be the case in 2020; the early May bank holiday is simply being moved and the total number of bank holidays across all parts of the United Kingdom will not change.

Because bank holidays often form part of a worker’s annual leave entitlement, employers should review the impact of any bank holiday adjustment on their usual practices. It is important to remember that workers do not have a stand-alone legal right to have a day off on bank holidays; instead it is the contract of employment which dictates when time off can be taken.

Therefore, employers should check the wording of workers’ terms and conditions to determine their position. Contractual wording can vary greatly so it is important for employers to check how this affects individual workers.

Some contracts may simply give workers an entitlement to time off on all bank holidays, or on ‘early May bank holiday’, without giving any more detail. This entitles workers to a day off on Friday 8th May 2020. There will be no entitlement to a day off on the original bank holiday date

Other variations of contractual wording may include a specific entitlement for the worker to have a day off on the original bank holiday. This may put employers who shut down on bank holidays in the situation where workers are due to be on leave on a day the business remains open and will be available for work on a shutdown day. This can be resolved by, for example, using any flexibility built into the contract to nominate alternative days of leave instead of the bank holiday itself, or by agreeing on a temporary amendment to terms and conditions with workers to ensure leave aligns with the bank holiday dates.

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Whilst employers are unable to foresee adjustments like this, the government’s decision on the early May bank holiday in 2020 highlights the importance of considering the impact of contractual wording on worker entitlements.

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