May is the month of bank holidays, and with another on the way in August there could be no better time than to work out what your employees are (and aren’t) entitled to when it comes to public holidays.
The right to stay at home on a bank holiday is a long-reinforced myth, fortified alongside a collection of other ever-popular HR legends. However, most of them are either outdated or were never strictly accurate. See below for some of the most unbreakable myths, and why they’re just not true…
Myth: All employees legally get bank holidays off work, or get extra pay
Reality: There are no legal rights to provide special treatment on public holidays
Many people still assume that bank holidays are automatic leave for all workers, and that any workers who are in the office on a bank holiday get some extra salaried incentive such as time-and-a-half pay.
While this may be a pleasant benefit in some workplaces, there are no legal obligations for an employer to let employees have bank holidays off, or pay extra wages. Essentially, it is entirely up to the employer whether they would like to include bank holidays in their employees’ statutory annual leave.
Myth: A job offer must be given in writing to be official
Reality: Verbal contracts are all you need
Despite what many people think, a contract exists as soon as an offer of employment is accepted – whether that’s via letter, over the phone, in email or in person. So don’t think that just because pen hasn’t been put to paper and no physical contract was signed, a job offer can be casually withdrawn.
Nevertheless, most employees joining a company for longer than a month are then entitled to a written contract within two months of starting work, which will outline their position’s terms and conditions.
Myth: Interns and work experience candidates aren’t entitled to any pay
Reality: If an intern is treated as a worker, they legally must be paid
And by that we mean that if you are giving an intern or work experience candidate the same tasks and responsibilities as a normal employee, you are legally obliged to pay them.
If you have somebody who started out as a volunteer but has now crossed over to being an intern or work experience individual, you’ll have to create a contract in which you are legally required by law to pay them at least the National Minimum Wage, as is required for all workers. Make sure you’re treating your interns fairly by following the government guidelines – otherwise you could end up paying internship wages in retrospect.
Myth: Employees choose when they take their holiday
Reality: Holiday leave can be refused, restricted and enforced, within reason
Employers can legally tell their staff to take leave, for example on Bank Holidays and Christmas, and they can also state when leave cannot be taken, for example during busy business periods.
Employees should refer to their employment contract to find out the usual protocol, but the general rule is that employers can cancel any booked holiday with a notice period twice the length of the time they booked off.
Myth: Zero hour contract and full time employees have different leave rights
Reality: Everyone has the same annual leave rights, regardless of their contract
According to ACAS, “Any worker or employee starts to accrue their annual leave from the moment they begin working,” – this includes zero hour contract workers.
FYI, zero contract workers also have the same statutory rights as other workers regarding being paid when travelling between jobs for the employer, as well as receiving statutory sick pay if they meet the requirements.
Myth: Employees with small children can make a flexible working request
Reality: Anyone, regardless of situation, can make a flexible working request
The government has taken steps recently to make sure than any employee can make a flexible working request with their employer to adjust or shorten their hours (provided they meet certain requirements).
A business may refuse this application, but only if they have a good business reason and provided they have dealt with the request in a “reasonable manner”.
With these myths unveiled, it’s worth keeping an eye on the Government’s website for the most up-to-date HR legal regulations and requirements for employers – don’t get caught out!