Jubilee celebrations could be marred by workplace unrest if employers fail to deal correctly with holiday and pay issues involving their staff, a leading employment lawyer has warned.
Sarah Williams, the head of employment at north west firm Taylors Solicitors, said the four-day bank holiday weekend could trigger discontent if bosses act unfairly.
She has seen a spike in inquiries from employers leading up to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, which is being marked by an additional bank holiday.
The Spring Bank Holiday, which usually falls on the last Monday of May, is being moved to this Thursday. Friday June 3 has been designated as an extra bank holiday, meaning Britons will enjoy a four-day bank holiday weekend.
Sarah said the care, hospitality and leisure, manufacturing, transport, logistics and retailing sectors are among those where issues are arising.
She said: “Employers have been inundated with requests for holidays to be taken over this weekend, with many people planning to go away.
“They are facing unusual and complex circumstances due to the extra bank holiday and the switch from Monday.
“Holiday issues at the best of times can be difficult to deal with, especially in relation to part-time staff or those who work irregular hours. With the extra bank holiday, there is more potential for conflict.”
She said key issues are involving pay, whether bank holidays are included or not in leave entitlement, and whether employers can make their staff work as they look for ways to keep their businesses functioning.
“Many employers do not fully understand where they stand, and are struggling about whether they have to give people the bank holidays off and how to manage the situation,” she said.
“It is causing particular problems in relation to part-time staff, as many don’t work on Fridays. Some are asking whether they are still entitled to the extra day’s pay, as it is a bank holiday.
“Because there is no statutory right to bank holiday leave and pay under the Working Time Regulations, employers must look at the contracts they have in place to understand their staff’s holiday leave and pay entitlement.
“Provided the employment contract expressly says so, employees can be required to work on a bank holiday.”
She added: “However, part-time employees should not be treated less favourably than those working full-time, otherwise they could pursue a discrimination claim. The same applies to other employees. Employers must respect those with protected characteristics at work and deal with everyone fairly and equally.
“If full-time employees are being given an extra bank holiday, then part-time employees should be offered the same, even if they do not usually work on that day.
“At the same time, employees should be mindful of their employers’ needs, as they will have to absorb one less day of productivity or service this year, and the cost can be high.”
Sarah said problems often occur when contracts are not clearly defined.
“It’s imperative that employers take advice and ensure contracts are well drafted to avoid conflict and potential discrimination or grievance claims,” she said.