The Easter holidays are almost upon us! They are earlier this year, which for most will be a more than welcome break after the dull January and February slog. However, having the public holidays so soon may not be all chocolate eggs and daffodils for some managers who might have a tricky HR conundrum on their hands as a result.
Indeed, employers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with an annual leave year running from 1st April – 31st March will find that there are actually two Easter bank holiday breaks in the 2015-2016 leave year. That is because the last Easter holiday landed on the 3-6th April 2015 and the next Easter holiday will be on the 25th-28th March 2016. Even more interestingly, the following Easter bank holiday will be on the 14-17th April 2017, which means there will be no Easter bank holidays for the 2016-2017 annual leave year.
This will mostly impact employers who make their bank holidays contractual, especially those who have contracts providing for “20 days annual leave plus bank holidays”. Most employers will have such a clause in their contracts in anticipation of there being eight annual bank holidays, bringing them into compliance with the statutory obligation to provide a minimum of 28 days annual leave per year. However, as there are two Easter bank holidays this year and none next year, this will mean that these employees will be entitled to two days’ more public holidays this year and two days’ less public holidays next year. As a result, some employees will only be contractually entitled to 26 days’ annual leave for the 2016-2017 holiday year, which is below the statutory minimum.
Employers cannot use the additional annual leave this year to compensate for a failure to meet the statutory minimum next year. Therefore employers in this situation may need to consider topping up the annual leave entitlement for the 2016-2017 holiday year to ensure compliance.
Employers can seek to change their contractual clauses to something more certain; for example, “20 days annual leave plus eight public holidays”. However employers can only make such a change to existing contracts with employee agreement, otherwise they will be in breach of contract. That being said, it may be a good idea for some employers to consider making this change to all new contracts going forward.
Contractual situations like this can be rather puzzling, therefore please contact your Legal Manager if you need further advice and assistance.