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Bank and public holidays

Time off work on bank and public holidays

Although many workers are given time off work on bank and public holidays, your employer is not required by law to allow you time off work on these days. And if they do give you the time off, they do not have to pay you for this time off. However, your contract of employment may give you the right to time off work on bank and public holidays. If so, it will also specify whether this time off will be paid or not.

Although there are some exceptions, most workers have the right to take 5.6 weeks' paid holiday from work. This is called statutory holiday.

To work out how many days paid statutory holiday you can take a year, you need to multiply 5.6 by the number of days you work in a week.

For example:

  • if you work a five-day week, you are entitled to 28 days' paid holiday a year (5.6 X 5).
  • if you work 2.5 days a week, you are entitled to 14 days' paid holiday a year (5.6 X 2.5).

The maximum amount of statutory paid holiday you can be entitled to is 28 days in one leave year. This applies even if you work more than five days a week.

If your employer gives you bank or public holidays off, they will count towards your statutory holiday unless your employment contract specifically says that you get bank or public holidays on top of your statutory holiday.

In England and Wales, there are eight bank and public holidays. In Scotland, there are nine bank and public holidays. In Northern Ireland, there are ten bank and public holidays.

Your employment contract may give you bank or public holidays off on top of your statutory holiday. For example, if you work five days a week, and get 28 days' holiday a year, you would get 28 days plus eight bank and public holidays. This makes a total of 36 days altogether. Your contract should tell you whether or not you are paid for the bank/public holidays.

Example 1: You work five days a week. Your contract says that you are entitled to 28 days' paid holiday a year. It also says you are entitled to take, and be paid, for eight bank and public holidays a year, on top of these days. This means that, in England and Wales, you will get 36 days' paid holiday a year (which is actually more than your statutory holiday).
Example 2: You work five days a week. Your contract says you are only entitled to 28 days' paid holiday in total. You are therefore not entitled to bank and public holidays on top of these 28 days. If you want to take them off, or if you have to take them off, you have to take them out of your 28 days off. In England and Wales, this leaves you 20 days that you can choose when to take off.
Example 3: You work five days a week. Your contract says nothing about holidays at all. You are entitled to 28 days' statutory paid holiday a year but you don’t have the right to take off bank and public holidays or to be paid for them. If your employer allows you to take them off, they come off your 28 days' statutory paid holiday, unless you and your employer agree something different.

Even if your contract says nothing about bank and public holidays, you may still have the right to have bank and public holidays off in addition to your statutory holiday if it's usual for others at your workplace to be given these days off in addition to their statutory holiday. If you think you are in this situation, get expert advice about what to do.

There are special rules for shop-workers in England and Wales who work in large shops (over 280 square metres). If you work in one of these shops, you must be given Christmas Day off, regardless of which day it falls on. However, whether or not you will be paid will depend on your contract of employment.

For more information about your right to take paid leave from work, see How much paid holiday you can take in Holidays and holiday pay.

If you are unsure whether you have the right to take time off work on bank and public holidays, you should talk to an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

Dates of bank and public holidays

The dates of bank and public holidays are available on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

Changes to bank or public holidays

Sometimes the government grants an extra bank or public holiday in order to celebrate a special occasion.