The Queen’s funeral will be a bank holiday – what do businesses need to know?

A bank holiday has been announced for Monday 19th September, the day of the Queen’s funeral. Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula, looks at the HR considerations.

“The Government has stated that the bank holiday for the Queen’s funeral will operate in the same way as other bank holidays which means there is no statutory right to a day off. Employers may wish to look back at how they have treated extra bank holidays in the past and do the same now. The difference is that there has always been lots of notice for previous extra bank holidays which isn’t the case with this one. To understand the baseline position on time off, contracts of employment need to be checked to determine whether employees have a contractual right to time off even if they don’t have a legal right.

“If a contract states that an employee has the right to 20 days’ annual leave plus a day off on 8 bank holidays and lists the bank holidays, there is no contractual right to time off on the day of the funeral because that won’t be one of the days listed.

“When looking at contractual wording, it’s important to check for any other flexibility built in which might allow employers to move things around. For example, contracts which state “8 public/bank holidays” but does not list them, or “8 public/bank holidays as listed, or other days as determined by us” may allow employers to give employees this extra day off but require them to work on another public/bank holiday.

“Of course, where contracts don’t include an automatic right to time off, employers can choose to give it as a day of paid leave in addition to the contractual entitlement, or have people book it off out of their entitlement if that is how the business normally works. Government guidance encourages employers to be sensitive to requests for the day off.

“London is expected to be particularly busy over the next week, placing extra demands on hotels, hospitality venues, security staff, emergency services and public transport. Similarly, other organisations, such as florists and memorabilia manufacturers, will see an increase in demand. Employers in these areas may have to consider putting a temporary freeze on staff taking annual leave.

“Employers can also cancel pre-booked annual leave, so long as they give the employee the same amount of notice as the duration of the leave. I would suggest doing this only as a very last resort as it can have a negative impact on morale and motivation.

“To keep up with increased customer demand, you may choose to offer enhanced overtime rates or incentives to work additional hours. However, it’s important to be mindful of the limits on maximum working hours and minimum rest breaks.

“The increased number of people in London will inevitably lead to increased travel times and widespread delays.

“Employers should cut some slack with employees who arrive late. The disruption should only last this week, so it’s reasonable for employers to make adjustments during this time.

“Understandably, employees may have genuine concerns over commuting across the capital during such an unprecedented and high-profile event. Be sure to listen to employee concerns and put adjustments in place during this time. Flexibility with start and finish times to avoid travelling during peak rush hours could be an option.

“In the rare event that employees are unable to get to work, employers should first consider whether they are able to temporarily work from home. If not, then discuss the alternative options of taking annual or unpaid leave. Do bear in mind that this is an historic event on a scale most of us have never experienced before, so a level of flexibility and understanding on both sides is paramount.

“Some sectors might need to consider bringing on new staff, in which case, the most effective approach to get employees in quickly could be utilising agency workers.

“So, that’s the logistical aspects covered.

“It should go without saying that employers need to be sympathetic.

“Recognise that the Queen’s death may be a difficult time for many. There have been genuine and profound reactions, which have taken some by surprise. Be prepared for heightened emotions and reduced concentration at work.

“It’s important to note that not all employees will be fans of the Royal Family. Whilst everyone is entitled to their opinion, it is worth remembering the acceptable standards of workplace behaviour. Creating a culture of inclusion and diversity means ensuring employees respect the differing opinions of their colleagues and interact with each other accordingly.

“If your business will remain open on the day of the Queen’s funeral, there will be no mandatory requirement to show the funeral in the workplace. However, I would advise that employers seriously consider the magnitude and historical importance of the event and be prepared for employees wanting to watch it. Communal viewing areas may help staff feel supported and united but, remember, not everyone will wish to partake so don’t make it mandatory.

“At 11am, the moment the Queen’s coffin arrives at Westminster Abbey, the nation will fall silent. Try not to schedule any meetings or phone calls at this time to allow employees to pay their respects.”