The first bank holidays were introduced in 1871 to provide non-religious holidays; if the banks were closed, the reasoning was that business overall would also stop for a day.

Over 150 years later, banks still close on a bank holiday, but for many other sectors – such as hospitality and retail, these holidays are vital for business.

It has got much more confusing around how workplaces handle bank holidays, and with two bank holidays coming up this month, it’s worth looking at to see whether you are getting your holiday entitlement.

First, it is up to your employer whether you must work on a bank holiday, and your employer does not have to pay you more to work the holiday.

This does vary from job to job and may depend on a number of factors such as whether your workplace opens on bank holidays, your hours of work and crucially, what your contract says.

If your place of work is normally open on a bank holiday you’ll probably be asked to work at least some. But if your contract says you get bank holidays off you shouldn’t be asked to work.

If you don’t have an employment contract, the legal default position is that your employer can tell you when you can or can’t take time off.

If you’d like to request a bank holiday off, use the normal method for requesting time off.

If you have an employment contract, you can find out:

Whether you always get bank holidays off

Whether you might sometimes have to work them

Or if you will always have to work them.

If your contract states you get public holidays off in addition to your annual leave entitlement, this might mean you’re not entitled to take these specific days off and may be required to work a bank holiday, in which case you should get another day off in lieu instead.

Alternatively, your contract might say something like: “Your annual holiday entitlement (inclusive of bank and public holidays) is X days” meaning you have to take bank holidays off as part of your annual leave entitlement.

Bank holidays will either be deducted from your annual leave allowance (so you’ll have to book all bank holidays as paid time off) or counted as additional holiday days.

A common misunderstanding around bank holidays is that employers have to pay you extra for working them, but unless your contract says you’ll be paid extra you will just be paid your normal amount.

For more advice, contact the Hertfordshire Adviceline 0800 144 88 48; we’re open 10am to 9pm Monday to Wednesday; 10am to 8pm Thursday and Friday; and 10am to 4pm on Saturday.

Or visit or anytime for more information on employment matters.