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Are flexible bank holiday policies the key to cultural inclusivity?

13 April 2023 4 min read

flexible bank holidays

With diversity and inclusivity ever at the forefront of people’s minds, organisations are constantly looking for new initiatives and ways to promote this in the workplace. One initiative that is gaining popularity is the idea of a ‘pick and mix’ or flexible bank holiday policy, which allow employees to decide whether they take annual leave on the fixed bank holiday dates, or book annual leave on alternatives.  

What is a flexible bank holiday policy? 

A flexible bank holiday policy, also referred to as a pick and mix bank holiday policy, allows employees to use their annual leave allowance on any days of their choosing, rather than automatically having 8 of their days assigned to the UK national bank holidays. 

Since the introduction of the Bank Holidays Act in 1871, the UK’s shared holiday dates have remained relatively fixed. A number of bank holidays in England and Wales relate to dates in the Christian calendar, while Scotland and Ireland also have a bank holiday to recognise their patron saints.  

On occasional years, the bank holidays do change, and in the UK we’ve had 2 years of additional bank holidays with the platinum jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in June 2022, her death in September 2022, and then the coronation of King Charles III taking place in May 2023. 

Challenging the status quo 

In the UK, statutory paid annual leave entitlement for a full time employee is 28 days, with 8 of those normally being assigned to the UK bank holidays. However, this is an employer choice – there is no statutory requirement to grant Bank Holidays as days off. 

flexible bank holidays

The vast majority do of course, with the exception of certain industries where a shut down like that is not possible (manufacturing, healthcare, retail). So there is a general consensus throughout the country that Bank Holidays are non-working days. 

But with Bank Holidays already being working days for a large number of industries, and a number of employees wishing to use their full annual leave entitlement whenever they choose, there are calls on employers to consider a more flexible approach. 

How would a flexible bank holiday policy promote inclusivity? 

Not only could a flexible bank holiday policy be good for managing operations (rather than having all employees off at the same time), but it’s also good for diversity, inclusivity and employee engagement. 

By allowing employees to opt out of national bank holidays and take the time when it suits them instead, it opens the doors for people from varying religious backgrounds to have the same opportunities to have time off when it means the most to them. 

For example, the Easter weekend gives people in the UK two bank holidays, meaning Christians are able to have time off to celebrate the holiday with loved ones. But someone who is Muslim and doesn’t celebrate Easter may prefer to take these 2 days over Eid. 

Not only does it promote inclusivity across varying religious and cultural backgrounds, but offering a flexible bank holiday policy could also allow non-religious employees to celebrate alternative days that could be significant to them (such as Pride). 

Watch our webinar 

 

Changing a policy, especially one that has been the norm for a long time, isn’t always straight forward though. Watch our on-demand webinar to learn more about how a flexible bank holiday policy could promote cultural inclusivity, as well as the benefits and challenges of implementing such a policy. 

We’re joined by guest speakers Nahida Ahmed, Senior Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant at HMRC, and Paul Knighton, Senior HR Business Partner at EE, who provide further thoughts on promoting cultural inclusivity in the workplace. 


Jenni author blog
Jenni
April 13, 2023

Jenni Littlehales is a marketing professional and an experienced author with a background in a wide variety of industries. Her understanding of people, wellbeing and associated challenges give a unique perspective in the evolving landscape of HR and technology.