I recently started a new job where my boss has told me I’ll have to work on bank holidays. This was never the case in my old job. Can my employer really make me work on a public holiday, and should I get paid extra if I do?

Congratulations on the new job and wonderful to hear you’re enjoying the work.

Unfortunately, when it comes to bank holidays, whether or not staff have to work is up to their employer, and you don’t have to be paid more if you do. The situation will vary from job to job and may depend on a number of factors such as whether your place of work is open on bank holidays, your hours of work and crucially, what your contract says.

Take a look at your contract, if you have one, to find out what your personal situation is. Your contract might say you will always get bank holidays off but it might say you may sometimes be required to work them or will always be required to work. If your place of work is normally open on a bank holiday you’ll probably be asked to work at least some. But if your contract says you get bank holidays off you shouldn’t be asked to work.

Your contract might say something like: “In addition to bank and public holidays, your annual entitlement to holidays is X days”. This means you get public holidays off in addition to your annual leave entitlement but it might not mean you’re entitled to take the specific days off. You may be required to work a bank holiday, in which case you should get another day off instead.

Alternatively, it might say something like: “Your annual holiday entitlement (inclusive of bank and public holidays) is X days” – this means you have to take bank holidays off as part of your annual leave entitlement. Bank holidays will either be deducted from your annual leave allowance (so you’ll have to book all bank holidays as paid time off) or counted as additional holiday days.

A common misunderstanding around bank holidays is that employers have to pay you extra for working them. This is not the case. Unless your contract says you’ll be paid extra you will just be paid your normal amount. If your contract says you are entitled to bank holidays but you’re asked to work, you should be able to take a different day off in lieu. Your employer has to follow what’s set out in your contract, if they don’t, you should raise this with them.

If you don’t have a contract, the legal default position is that your employer can tell you when you can or can’t take time off. If you’d like to request a bank holiday off, use the normal method for requesting time off.

If you find you need to resolve an issue with your employer, first ask for an informal chat, where you can raise your concerns. If this doesn’t get you anywhere, you may need to raise a formal grievance. If you need advice on this contact your local Citizens Advice.

Copyright Citizens Advice. The advice provided in this advice column was published 7 February 2023. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit our Citizens Advice public site.

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