For many, the Christmas and New Year break probably seems like a distant memory now. People are probably turning their attention to organising their next holiday. With this in mind, some employees are set to gain additional annual leave as a result of the way that Easter bank holidays fall this year, next year and in 2017.
The wording in some employees’ contracts could land employers with an unanticipated liability for paying additional holiday, as a result of variations in Easter dates.
The issue will affect employers that operate an annual leave year that runs from 1 April to 31 March, and that set out their employees’ paid annual leave entitlement using wording along the lines of “20 days’ holiday plus bank holidays”.
As you will know, employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ annual leave under the Working Time Regulations. This equates to 28 days’ leave per year for employees working a five-day week. The 28 days can include bank holidays, of which there are usually eight per year.
The way in which the 2015 Easter break fell meant that, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there were bank holidays on 3 and 6 April. However, this year, the bank holidays are earlier: Good Friday is on 25 March and Easter Monday is on 28 March. Then in 2017, Easter is later, with Good Friday falling on 14 April and Easter Monday on 17 April.
This means that two Easter breaks fall within a holiday year running from 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016 - the Easter break that fell early in April 2015, and the Easter break falling in late March 2016. Affected employees will gain from two additional bank holidays (on top of the usual eight) for the leave year.
If an employer fails to honour a contractual clause providing for “20 days’ holiday plus bank holidays”, it will result in them being in breach of contract, regardless of the fact that there are more than the usual number of bank holidays. However, for a holiday year running 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017, employees would appear to lose out. There is no Easter break during the whole of the annual leave year, meaning that they will be entitled under their contract to just 26 days’ leave.
In light of the above, it is probably worth you checking your contracts of employment to see when your holiday year falls and what the wording around holidays entitlement says in the contract. If your circumstances fall into the above category, then we will be delighted to talk through with you how to deal with the above scenarios.