From the TUC

Bosses should do the right thing for the Diamond Jubilee

31 May 2012, by in Labour market, Uncategorized

With just days to go until the Diamond Jubilee , some companies are rethinking their decision to treat this one-off bank holiday as a normal day. Most notably, major retail employer Marks and Spencers have just concluded a deal with the GMB trade union that will mean a premium rate for staff who have to work on Tuesday’s bank holiday. This is a welcome development –  there is still time for employers to do the right thing when it comes to paying staff properly.

The law on paid holidays simply states that “workers” (eg employees, temporary agency workers and the dependant self employed) must be given at least 5.6 weeks paid leave per year, which my include bank holidays.

However, most of us get more than that through our contracts of employment. In fact,largely because of the work that unions have done, the average entitlement for a full-time employee is 25 days annual leave plus paid bank holidays.

For those who have to work on public holidays, pay premia have been under pressure in recent years but double time or a day in lieu is still the most common reward. In addition, there are still a good number of private companies who pay double time and a day in lieu (eg treble time) in recognition of the sacrifice made in working on a public holiday.

Employers who choose to ignore the bank holiday are being a bit silly, to say the least. They may save some money in the short term, but staff do not easily forget being badly treated, so that in the medium term this may contribute to poor morale, increased absenteeism and so on. Furthermore, customer-facing businesses may be putting their reputations at risk if it becomes public knowledge that they treat their staff in a mean manner.

Unions have a long record on bank holidays. We were instrumental in creating the modern bank holiday. The industrial revolution swept away all the medieaval  holidays except Christmas Day and Good Friday. TUC officials met Prime Minister Gladstone in the run-up to the 1871 Bank Holiday Act, which raised the number of public holidays to five. In the 1960s and 1970s we made deals with the Labour Government to create new bank holidays on Easter Monday (1965), New Years Day (1974) and May Day (1978).

In most cases unions have succeeded in getting extra rates for their members who have to work on the Diamond Jubilee, although disappointingly there has been a problem in the NHS, where just under 1 in 4 trusts are set to ignore the holiday. 

 It would also be helpful if the Government were to say loudly and publicly what they already say very quietly on their advice website, where business are advised to consider “whether it will affect the morale of your workers if your business does not join in with celebrations” – employers take note that the answer to that question will inevitably be “yes”. It is not yet too late to be good.