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Leave Obligations for Other Religious Festivals

There is no obligation on employers that close over Christmas to grant additional leave to employees who do not celebrate Christmas to enable them to celebrate other religious festivals. Indeed, if an employer were to grant additional leave to some employees for this reason it could be liable to claims of discrimination because of religion or belief, by other employees. However, employers who receive a request for holiday for another festival should treat the request sensitively and try to accommodate it where possible, provided that the employee has sufficient holiday remaining.

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Leave Obligations for Other Religious Festivals

There is no obligation on employers that close over Christmas to grant additional leave to employees who do not celebrate Christmas to enable them to celebrate other religious festivals. Indeed, if an employer were to grant additional leave to some employees for this reason it could be liable to claims of discrimination because of religion or belief, by other employees. However, employers who receive a request for holiday for another festival should treat the request sensitively and try to accommodate it where possible, provided that the employee has sufficient holiday remaining.

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Paying Extra for Christmas Holiday Workers?

There is no automatic entitlement for employees to receive a higher rate of pay for working on bank and public holidays. However, the right to be paid a higher rate could be incorporated into the contract as an express verbal or written term or an implied term though custom and practice. If the contract does not incorporate a term entitling employees to be paid extra for working over Christmas, the employer is under no obligation to pay extra.

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To Pay or Not To Pay - Christmas Bonuses

2010 has been a difficult year for businesses in all sectors and bonuses will be difficult to justify for many employers. Before writing them off immediately though, it's worth consdiering the following points;

When deciding whether or not to pay an employee a Christmas bonus, check whether staff have a contractual right to be paid a bonus and, if so, the nature of that right. If an employee's contract states that he or she has a right to a Christmas bonus at a defined amount, you must comply with this term, or you will be in breach of the employee's contract.

If an employee's contract entitles him or her to a Christmas bonus but payable only at your discretion, or if the amount is discretionary, then there is greater scope for avoiding or reducing the payment. There may be sound economic reasons for not paying a bonus to some staff, but you should ensure that you not exercise any discretionary right capriciously or in bad faith. Consistency across all staff is key, and you should make your reasons for not paying a bonus clear to avoid any allegations of discriminatory treatment.

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Are Part Time Workers Entitled to Bank Holidays?

Under the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000, a part-time worker has the right not to be treated less favourably than a comparable full-time worker on the grounds that he or she is a part-timer. This includes entitlement to bank holidays.

Where an employer includes bank holidays in the statutory minimum entitlement to paid holiday under the Working Time Regulations 1998 this is unlikely to cause problems. However, where full-time workers are entitled to bank holidays in addition to their statutory entitlement to holiday, difficulties may arise.

It may be fair to allow part-time workers to take a bank holiday where their day of work coincides with a bank holiday, particularly if a shift system means that both full-timers and part-timers are equally likely to be rostered to work on a bank holiday. However, where workers work fixed days each week, part-timers could be disadvantaged by such a practice. As most bank holidays fall on a Monday or a Friday, those part-timers who never work on these days will be entitled to proportionately fewer days off than full-timers who regularly work on these days. In these circumstances the disadvantage could be removed by giving all part-timers pro rata entitlement to time off in lieu of bank holidays according to the number of hours they work. However, the Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 provide protection only where any less favourable treatment is on the grounds that the worker is part time.

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