While most employees are quite happy during April and May thanks to all these magnificent bank holidays, some HR Professionals might be a little less cheerful. It was recently in the news that employers who operate an annual leave year that runs from 1st April to 31st March risk paying their employees too much. What is going on exactly and, more importantly, what can you do about it?

The queen started it

The legislation regarding working time states that every employee is entitled to a minimum of 5.6 working weeks annual leave. For employees who work 5 days a week, this means 28 days. Many employers include a clause in their employment contracts which provides for ‘20 days plus bank holidays’ – which is perfectly lawful. However, companies who run a holiday year from 1 April to 31 of March could be in trouble over the next two years.

It all started with the Queen’s Jubilee in 2012, where employers found themselves having to give staff an extra bank holiday because their contracts were too vague. Many employers responded by naming the bank holidays in the contract. Unfortunately this solution doesn’t really help, because companies who run their holiday year from 1 April to 31 March will have two Easter breaks during that year. When a contract specifies bank holidays, you are obliged to let employees go on both Easter breaks.

However, the following year there will be no Easter break meaning employees could be short changed by two days so you will have to supplement those missing bank holidays or face claims for a breach of the Working Time Regulations 1998.

Talk to your employee

What can you do to fix this problem without breaking the law? It’s wise to talk to your employees, explain the problem to them and invite them to carry over two days to the next holiday year. If you create an agreement for them to sign, you’ve got it legally covered.

The other possibility is to look at the drafting of your contracts and start changing them for the next year. Some free advice: change the clause that says ’20 days + bank holidays’ to ‘28 days out of which leave should be taken for to cover public holidays’. If your contracts are in order, you don’t have to worry about bank holidays during your own break!