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Managing bank holidays during sickness absence

bank holidays during sickness absence

Staff off sick on a bank holiday? When staff members have bank holidays during sickness absence, various factors come into play as to whether employers owe them time off in lieu. Read our guide to find out more:

How bank holidays and sickness absence interact

How you treat a case of sickness during a bank holiday depends on whether bank holidays are included within a worker’s statutory holiday entitlement.

When bank holidays are within holiday entitlement

If a worker’s contract states that bank holidays form part of their 5.6 weeks minimum annual leave, then you should treat sickness that affects a bank holiday in the same way as you would treat sick leave and time in lieu for any other holiday day. So, if a staff member usually gets holiday pay for bank holidays, they should still get that paid holiday when too sick to take the bank holiday properly.

Not sure how to manage annual leave and sickness when they overlap? Read our guide on managing sickness and annual leave.

When bank holidays are extra to holiday entitlement

If you offer time off for bank holidays beyond statutory holiday entitlement, granting time off in lieu may not be necessary. Sickness on bank holidays, in this circumstance, may just be an unfortunate scenario for a staff member.

In this case, it may be prudent to explicitly make clear in the contract and/or company handbook how your organisation deals with bank holidays during sickness absence.

Detail whether you offer time in lieu or not and in what circumstances. Having it written down will make sure responses to the situation are consistent and no controversy arises!

What else to look out for with bank holidays

Beyond times when bank holidays occur during sickness absence, there are other aspects that can cause headaches for employers when not planned for properly. Consider the following aspects of bank holidays and employment to assess if and how you’re addressing them:

Having paid bank holidays in addition to statutory holiday entitlement

It’s good to note that, if bank holidays do not form part of a worker’s statutory holiday entitlement, you are not required to offer bank holidays as paid or unpaid leave [1]. However, this is common custom for many organisations; you may want to specify your stance on this within the contract or additional documentation.

Bank holiday entitlement for part-time workers

Working out bank holiday entitlements for part-time workers can be tricky but is crucial to get right. This is especially the case when they wouldn’t usually work on a day where a bank holiday occurs (usually a Monday or Friday).

If full-time workers get paid bank holidays on top of their statutory entitlement, it’s important to ensure that part-timer workers are receiving the same time off. This will be pro rata according to the days/hours they work.

Additional pay for staff working bank holidays

Unless you specify it within the contract, you do not need to pay staff more for working on bank holidays. However, this also tends to be common custom; not paying extra may have an impact on staff morale if they do need to work on bank holidays.

Closing on bank holidays

If you close the workplace on bank holidays, you can specify that staff take these days as part of their statutory holiday entitlement [2], unless it is stipulated in the contract that bank holidays are available (paid or unpaid) in addition to this minimum entitlement.


[1] Practical Law Employment, 2017; updated August 2018: ‘Statutory holidays and sickness absence’.

[2] Citizens Advice Bureau, Working on bank holidays.

Related article: Managing absence effectively: how to reduce absence!

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