Diamond Jubilee: Your rights to a day off work

Kevin Peachey explains your jubilee rights

Preparations for street parties may be in full swing - but for some workers the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations could fall flat.

Many people will not have a legal right to a day off on the extra public holiday that has been declared for Tuesday, 5 June.

The holiday - which is in addition to the existing bank holiday on 4 June - has already caused some concern among businesses, which will ultimately have to cover the cost of 24 hours of lost production and absent staff.

Sir Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, said that the extra day could also affect the economic output of the UK.

How do I know whether I can have the day off?

Most employers will want to maintain the support of staff and so will offer the extra day as part of paid holiday entitlement, without question.

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However, the legal right to the day off depends on the wording of an employee's contract.

All workers have the right to at least 5.6 weeks of paid leave every year under the working time directive - the equivalent of 28 days for full-time workers.

Their contract could say that they should receive 20 days plus all public or bank holidays - in which case they would be legally entitled to the day off on 5 June.

However, the contract may say they get 20 days of leave plus the usual bank holidays - so they will not necessarily be entitled to the extra, "unusual" holiday for the Diamond Jubilee.

"Employers should think back to how they dealt with the additional day of leave in 2011 for the royal wedding," says Susan Evans, partner at legal firm Lester Aldridge.

"There is an argument that they should be consistent in their approach."

Cathy Hoar, associate at legal firm Adams and Remers, agrees that if it is normal custom and practice for staff to be given any extra public holidays, and to be paid for them, this is important if entitlement is not clear in contracts.

What happens if I work part-time?

People who work reduced hours are entitled to the same holiday as full-time workers on a pro-rata basis. In other words, they receive the proportion of the 5.6 weeks of holiday that reflects the hours they work.

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They should not be discriminated against in any way because they work fewer hours.

However, Ms Hoar points out that there is often confusion in this area because part-time staff might not normally work on the day of the holiday. For example, they might only work Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The additional holiday, on a Tuesday, must be taken into account for holiday entitlement - even if a part-time worker might not normally work on that day.

If I work on the extra holiday, am I entitled to more pay?

Again - disappointingly for some workers - there is no legal right to bonus pay for working on a public or bank holiday. The contract is the key.

"This is also down to the wording of the contract and any custom and practice that has developed," says Ms Evans.

Some contracts stipulate that staff will be paid double for working on any public or bank holidays, and perhaps a day off in lieu, so 5 June would be no different.

Are any employers refusing to allow workers the day off?

The TUC says that some employers failed to give their staff the day off for the royal wedding a year ago, and it fears the same might happen for the Diamond Jubilee.

Last year, it wrote to the government, asking ministers to change the law to add a provision to holiday entitlement to take account of any special bank or public holidays. But no provision was made.

Instead, the government has echoed the TUC's view that refusing the extra leave would seriously affect harmony in the workplace.

"The annoyance and ill-will that will be caused by forcing staff to work while everyone else is out having a nice time will far outweigh any benefits from one extra day in the office," says TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.

Some employers may not be able to allow everyone to take the day off, so would need to find a fair way of organising who is in and who is off.

What can I do if my boss is not allowing me to take the holiday?

First of all, people should have a look at their contract to ensure they are entitled to the extra day off.

It might be worth having a quiet word with the boss to check what the arrangements are.

Otherwise, says Ms Hoar, the first step is for workers to raise the issue with their line managers or human resources department.

Employers should have formal grievance procedures in place, though, and ultimately workers could make claims for a breach of contract.

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