In light of the announcement that Prince William and Kate Middleton will celebrate their nuptials on Friday 29 April 2011, the date has been announced as an official bank holiday to allow for public celebration. The wedding day falls between the Easter weekend and the May Day bank holiday and many employers are unsure of the position regarding employees’ entitlement to this additional bank holiday.

In most situations there will be no legal obligation to allow employees to take the day as a holiday, although this will depend on the contracts of employment in place. Full time employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks holiday per year (28 days for a full time employee working 5 days a week), but there is no statutory right for employees to have time off, either paid or unpaid, on bank holidays. Normally, employers will specify in the contract of employment the number of days that employees are entitled to per year and that this figure is inclusive of any bank holidays.

If the contract of employment specifies that an employee is entitled to a set number of holiday days per year, then as long as it is not below the statutory minimum, employees working under the contract will not be entitled to an extra day on top of their stated contractual allowance. In that situation it will be a matter for the employer’s discretion whether they grant employees the day off for the royal wedding bank holiday in addition to their usual contractual entitlement.

In the unusual circumstance where a contract of employment states that the employee is entitled to all bank holidays, employers may be bound to grant the additional day. However, it is unlikely that many contracts will include such provisions. It is more common for separate reference to be made in a contract to the specific bank holidays observed, or for a specific number of bank holidays to be stated. Employers faced with requests for the day off should therefore consult the specific contractual provisions