Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Holidays

Rights to holiday leave and pay are one of the most common employment queries to CAB and many people are now asking about their entitlements to the special bank holiday on 29th April 2011 to celebrate the royal wedding.

This article will look at the issue of entitlements to paid holiday and to bank holidays as we approach the Easter break and the special bank holiday.

Under the Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998, most workers have a statutory right to 5.6 weeks' paid holiday. Some workers, depending on their contract, may be entitled to more than the statutory amount of holiday. If a worker works five days a week, 5.6 weeks means 28 days' holiday. If a worker works more than five days a week, their statutory paid holiday is capped at 28 days. If a worker works fewer than five days, the statutory amount of days is calculated on a pro-rata basis.

There is no general statutory right for a worker to take bank holidays or public holidays, with or without pay. Where a worker is given bank or public holidays off and is paid for them, they will count towards their entitlement to statutory holiday unless the contract specifies that the bank or public holidays are given in addition to statutory holiday. If an employer chooses to give workers bank and public holidays in addition to statutory paid holiday, then part-time workers for that employer should be offered the same entitlement to bank and public holidays on a pro-rata basis. This means that a part-time worker who works three days per week and is entitled to paid bank holidays on top of their 5.6 weeks' paid leave, should be entitled to paid leave on three fifths of the bank holidays in the year even if the bank holiday does not fall on their usual work day. They would have to take other bank holidays out of their statutory entitlement.

Any right to paid time off for bank holidays therefore depends on the terms of an employee’s contract of employment. Entitlements of this nature can sometimes be inferred even when they are not explicitly written down, for example, where they have become part of custom and practice. If an employee works on a bank holiday there is no automatic right to extra pay, what an employee will get paid will depend on their contract of employment.

Entitlements to the special bank holiday will therefore depend on the details of the employee’s contract of employment. If an employee’s contract says that they get all bank holidays as paid leave in addition to the statutory holiday entitlement the special bank holiday will be an extra paid day off. If an employee’s contract says that they get the normal ten bank holidays as paid leave in addition to the statutory holiday entitlement the special bank holiday will not count as an extra paid holiday. Employees should therefore check their contract of employment for details of their rights.

A worker may ask to take any leave to which they are entitled by statute when they choose, provided they give their employer the correct notice. However, the employer has a right to refuse the request, provided the employer gives the correct notice. An employer can require a worker to take all or part of the holiday that they are entitled to at a specific time, for example, over the Christmas break, provided that the worker is given the correct prior notice. If there is no relevant agreement between an employer and a worker as to the notice to be given before taking holiday the amount of notice which must be given must be at least twice as long as the period of leave to be taken.

A worker in their first year of employment may be subject to special rules about how their holiday accrues. The amount of leave which may be taken builds up monthly in advance at the rate of one twelfth of the annual entitlement each month.

Further information is available from your local CAB. Guidance on holiday leave and pay can be found on www.nidirect.gov.uk if you are an employee or worker and www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk if you are an employer.

Siobhan Harding is an Information and Policy Officer with Citizens Advice.

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