Belfast Telegraph

60% of firms to take royal holiday

Northern Ireland bosses are more likely to give staff the day off for next month's royal wedding than those in Scotland and most regions in England, a survey has revealed.

An average of 60% of employers plan to close their offices on April 29 when Prince William and Kate Middleton marry at Westminster Abbey.

The UK average is just under 55% with bosses in Scotland the least likely to grant time off, according to research.

Even though April 29 has been designated a public holiday, businesses are under no obligation to allow staff to stay at home. Almost two in five of the 500-plus SMEs polled across the UK said they would open as usual unless the public holiday was made law, according to the survey.

Harry Parkinson, managing director of Close Invoice Finance in Ireland which was involved in the survey, said he believed the economic climate was to blame for an apparent lack of generosity.

He claimed: "There is clearly an interesting split across the UK but regional attitudes towards the wedding aside, most businesses are in a no-win situation. Many simply can't afford to let employees take any unnecessary leave, especially those struggling to recover from the recession and also coming to terms with January's big VAT increase.

"Cash flow in particular is crucial to a firm's survival and when staff aren't there the money still flows out and nothing is coming in."

The Business Barometer survey said not all employers granting the holiday were happy about it and claimed almost a third in Northern Ireland admitted to feeling pressurised into making it a public holiday.

Mr Parkinson added: "At the moment they are being forced to decide whether to give staff the holiday as a gesture of goodwill - and stand to lose a day's work as a result; or run the risk of damaging morale by either opening as usual or taking the day out of workers' holiday entitlement."

The regional percentages of employers planning to close were: Northern Ireland 60%, North East 61.5%, North West 61.7%, Yorkshire/Humberside 70.4%, East Midlands 51.2%, West Midlands 56.8%, East Anglia 59.2%, Greater London 52.9%, South East England 53.5%, South West England 54.5%, Scotland 34.3%.

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