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Public holidays: a raw deal for part-time workers?

Public holidays: a raw deal for part-time workers?

April and May cause delight to many workers as they tend to include four public holidays. But could an employer fall foul by treating its part-time staff less favourably?

April and May are two months which can cause delight to many workers as they generally include 4 public holidays.

But could an employer fall foul by treating its part-time staff less favourably in relation to public holidays?

Public Holidays and Statutory Leave

The minimum paid leave entitlement required under the Working Time Regulation 1998 (WTR) was originally 4 weeks, but was subsequently increased by the government to 5.6 weeks.

This increase meant that for a full-time worker, their minimum paid holiday entitlement went up from 20 days per year to 28 days.  

The increase was intended to account for the 8 public holidays in England and Wales, as the WTR provided no additional entitlement in relation to public holidays. As a result, many employers were previously counting the 8 public holidays as part of their full-time workers’ 20 day annual leave entitlement.

Regardless of that increase under the WTR, there is still no statutory right to time off on public holidays, whether paid or unpaid.

As already mentioned, a full-time worker is entitled to 28 days paid holiday each year and whether they are entitled to take the 8 public holidays as paid leave and, if so, whether that’s in addition to or as part of their 28 day entitlement is generally dependant on what their contract of employment says.

Rights regarding public holidays may be largely dependent upon the sector in which the workers work. For example, those in the hospitality industry are unlikely to have the right to time off during public holidays. By contrast, those working in an education setting are likely to have public holidays off and to be paid for those days.

Statutory Entitlement for Part-Time Workers

Part-time workers are entitled to the same 5.6 weeks’ annual leave under the WTR as full-time workers.

To account for the workers’ lower hours, one ‘week’ is calculated by the number of days worked in a standard week.

This means that one week for someone working 3 days per week will be 3 days, rather than the 5 days for a full-time colleague. The 3 day per week worker would have a minimum paid holiday entitlement of 16.8 days per year, as opposed to the 28 day entitlement of the full-time worker.  

Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment

An employer’s holiday policy may have the effect of treating part-time staff less favourably than full time staff.

Whilst this may be wholly innocent on the part of the employer, could it fall foul of the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 (PTW)?


An employer provides 5 weeks’ holiday per year plus public holidays.

Jack works full time, Monday to Friday. John works part-time, Wednesday to Friday.

Jack benefits fully under the employer’s holiday policy, due to all public holidays falling on days when he would ordinarily work. He gets 33 days paid holiday per year (25 days plus 8 public holidays).

John, however, does not work Mondays, on which at least 4 of the public holidays fall. John therefore is losing out on holiday pay on these days in comparison to Jack.

On a pro rata basis, John should get 19.8 days holiday per year (that is 3/5 of 33), but with 4 of the 8 public holidays falling on Mondays, he will, at most, only get 19 days (15 days plus 4 public holidays). This is likely to be a breach of the PTW.

Best Practice for Part-Time Workers

Continuing the example from above, best practice would be for the employer to calculate the total holidays (including public holidays) provided to a full-time member of staff and make sure that this is applied on a pro-rata basis to all part-time staff.

For more information

For more information on public holidays and employee entitlements, contact Burnetts' Employment Law & HR team here.

About the author

Sophie Allinson profile photo

Sophie Allinson

Sophie is a Solicitor in the firm's HR & Employment team.

Published: Thursday 4th April 2019
Categorised: Commercial Client, Employment, HR, Legal Services in Newcastle, Penrith, West Cumbria

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