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How Does Her Majesty The Queen’s Passing Impact your Staff?

September 12, 2022 | By: Claire Malley

With deep sadness, the country will mourn but celebrate the life & service of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It has already been announced that the day of the funeral will be a bank holiday; Monday 19th September. There is speculation that King Charles’ Coronation will be an additional bank holiday but that date is still to be confirmed. Some businesses will be required by the terms of their employment contracts to give employees the day as leave and so forced to close, others will choose to do so. Some employers will allow staff to take the day as a holiday whereas for others, it will not be feasible. For many, it may simply not be affordable to do so, especially given there has already been one additional bank holiday this year with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Detailed below are a number of things for organisations to be aware of…

Do staff automatically get the day off?

No, not necessarily. There will be many considerations, which are dealt with in more depth below, including whether or not you decide to close the business on the date of the funeral and / or date of the Coronation, whether your employment contracts entitle your staff to the additional bank holiday day off, whether there is any work available for staff if third party business closures impact your business, and whether staff have other responsibilities such as childcare.

How does an additional bank holiday impact holiday entitlement?

This will all depend on the wording in your contract of employment. Our preferred wording, if you have adopted this, allows for you to insist that if staff wish to take any additional bank holidays, they do so inclusive of their total current leave entitlement, i.e., staff will have no automatic contractual right to the additional bank holiday. Whereas other contracts may require you to give any additional bank holiday as an additional day’s leave with pay. Our advisers can always check the wording for you if you are unsure on how to interpret it. Even where the contract does not give staff an entitlement to the additional day’s leave, you are still free to use your discretion to allow them to take it as an additional paid day of leave if you wish.

Similarly, for those organisations who can’t or won’t be honouring the additional bank holiday, it will depend on your contract of employment as to whether you will need to allow staff who are working it, to take the holiday at a different date or whether you can ignore it completely.

Bear in mind that some staff may have already used their holiday entitlement for the year, or at least have it booked in, particularly for those with holiday years ending on or before 31st December. Make sure you’re acting reasonably in such instances.

Consideration also needs to be given to part time staff. Depending on whether all your full-time staff are receiving the additional day off, part-timers may be entitled to the equivalent time off on a pro rata basis. For advice on calculating this or whether you’d need to include part time staff, speak to one of our advisers. In a situation where a part-time member of staff has no contractual entitlement to the additional Bank Holiday but nonetheless wishes to take the day as a day’s leave then if they normally work on the day the bank holiday falls, you would pay them for it and deduct the day from their entitlement. If, however, you are allowing all full time staff an additional day, you wouldn’t make the deduction from the part-timer’s entitlement in order to ensure they are not placed at a detriment. If the part-timer doesn’t work on the day the bank holiday falls then, where eligible, they will be entitled to take their additional pro rata entitlement at a different time, when they would normally have worked.

Dealing with business closures on the day

Some businesses and services may have to close temporarily as a mandatory measure following the Queen’s death and / or for the funeral, whereas others may use their discretion to do so. A lot of shops and supermarkets, for example, are already deciding to do so.

If you decide to close, you’ll still have to pay your staff if they were due to work that day. You could utilise the “double the notice” rule to enforce holiday on that day. In order to do this, you need to give staff double the amount of notice to the time you want them to take. For instance, if you decided to close on the day of the funeral then you’d have to give them at least 2 days’ notice that you wish them to take the day as annual leave. The same will be the case if the day of the Coronation becomes a bank holiday. Bear in mind we are approaching the end of the holiday year for many so you may have staff who don’t have any holiday left to take, or staff who only have a couple of days left. You will need to ensure you are acting reasonably when enforcing the annual leave and taking into account individual circumstances. If you get push back from any employees then you should seek advice from one of our advisers.

You may have clients who close their business meaning you have no work for or no site to send some of your staff to (for example, cleaning, security work etc.). If this is the case, you can utilise the above annual leave option or you might decide to temporarily “lay off” your staff and pay them in line with current reduced rates of pay. For advice on doing this, contact the advice line.  

Managing sickness absence

If you decide to stay open or must continue to operate due to the nature of your business then you may anticipate an influx of annual leave requests or sickness absences on the day of or after the funeral due to mourning and celebrations etc. We would advise confirming in writing to staff who are declined annual leave, that any subsequent sickness absence would be treated as suspicious and where possible, evidence of such sickness may be required. If you require medical certification then you would likely have to pay a fee for this. Or you might decide to issue a general memo to all staff regarding this. You will be in a better position to investigate any subsequent sickness absence if you have pre warned staff beforehand.

School & Nursery Closures

If you are an organisation who can’t close on bank holidays (for example, care homes) or you simply decide you want business to resume as normal that day then you should anticipate some staff may have childcare obligations due to potential school and nursery closures. If staff have nobody else to care for their children and cannot access out of school / nursery clubs or family support such as Grandparents, then at least one parent will need time off work to look after them, regardless of whether their workplace is still operating. Put an action plan in place in advance. Talk to your staff; can their partner take the time off work to manage the childcare? Can you use the “double the notice” rule outlined above to enforce annual leave? Can you authorise them to take unpaid leave? Planning and talking to your staff in advance will leave you in a better position than dealing with multiple last-minute calls from staff saying they are unable to attend work. Or maybe your staff looked after their children whilst working from home, albeit at a reduced level of efficiency, during recent lockdowns and you’d be happy for them to do so again during this short period.

Payment for working the bank holiday

If you decide to resume business as normal, then for the majority, the pay for working the bank holiday will be in line with normal pay rates unless you use your discretion to offer more. However, if your contract entitles staff to a higher rate of pay or your normal practice is to pay staff at an enhanced rate for working bank holidays then you will likely need to adhere to this unless the wording specifically precludes it. Check with our advisers if you are unsure.

As ever, there are a lot of things to think about depending on the individual circumstances therefore if in any doubt, please speak to one of our expert advisers via calling 033 33 215 005 or by emailing info@wirehouse-es.com

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About the Author
Claire Malley
Claire Malley
Claire Malley, Author at Wirehouse Employer Services

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