Royal Wedding fever is gathering momentum with the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton just around the corner. Almost every shop seems to be selling tacky souvenir mugs and flags, and there’s even a ‘knit your own royal wedding’ set doing the rounds, available shortly in an Oxfam shop near you. And while some frantically hire trestle tables for their David Cameron-approved street party, others are simply looking forward to enjoying the extra public holiday on 29 April and two 4-day weekends on the trot with an idyllically short 3 day week in between. Happy times.
However, not everyone is so delighted with the extra day off work, particularly hot on the heels of the Easter break. Many business leaders have expressed dismay over the fact and timing of the extra holiday, particularly in these times of economic uncertainty. Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, for example, says that nearly 70% of its members think that the extra holiday will adversely affect profits and only a mere 7% think it will increase revenue (presumably those selling Wills & Kate memorabilia, beer and aspirin).
Equally, some workers with plans to spend 29 April enjoying street parties, Elgar and bunting in quantities not seen since 1945 will instead find themselves at work as normal, much to their dismay. It is a fallacy that there is an automatic right to time off on public holidays (unless the contract of employment expressly permits it). Many employers will insist on all hands on deck on 29 April. Quite apart from various public services, the hospitality industry will no doubt wish to maximise its income from the event. Hotels and restaurants in London will be filled to bursting and pubs and bars across the nation will hope that even the ‘who cares about the wedding’ fraternity will spend the day determinedly rendering themselves legless at any venue without a big screen.
If their employment contracts do not set out holiday entitlement as ‘X days plus public holidays’ but, rather, ‘Y days, including bank holidays’, then there is not a lot those unfortunate employees can do about it. In the end, however, this is another of those cases, like bad weather and World Cups, where a degree of pragmatism will take an employer much further in the long terms with its staff than a strident enforcement of contractual rights.