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Can I Ask My Staff to Work Weekends and Bank Holidays?

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There are times that a GP practice needs its employees to work at weekend or perhaps bank holidays. Of course, weekend work in healthcare services has been bought to the public’s attention during the junior doctor dispute. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has effectively asked junior doctors to work more weekends. Was he right to do so? Can you ask your employees to work weekends and bank holidays?

The answer is not clear cut. Weekend and bank holiday working are covered by law, but as with so many employment laws it appears there may be exceptions to every rule.

The contract is the ultimate decider

Whether you can expect your employees to work at weekends is ultimately dictated by the employee’s contract of employment. Most organisations have standard clauses regarding working hours and weekend and bank holiday work, though exceptions may be agreed during hiring negotiations.

Weekend work: the rules

If the contract of employment stipulates that weekend work may be required, then an employee can be asked to work at weekends and be expected to do so. However, if this is likely to be a regular occurrence it should be reflected in the wording of the contract of employment.

The next question commonly asked is about extra pay for weekend work. This depends upon how the employee is paid, and also if there are overtime or bonus payment clauses in the contract. Employees that are paid hourly are more likely to be compensated for working at weekends.

Bank holiday work: the rules

In exactly the same way as the requirement for an employee to work on a weekend is dictated by his or her contract of employment, so too are the rules for working on bank holidays. Importantly:

- If the bank holiday falls on a day that would normally otherwise be a normal working day, you can require the employee to work providing the contract stipulates the employee may have to work on the bank holiday

This is allowable because there is no legal right for an employee to take a bank holiday. The employment laws go further than this, though:

- You don’t have to pay extra for time worked on a bank holiday

Beware!

If the contract of employment states that the employee is entitled to ‘statutory holiday entitlement plus bank holidays’ the employee will be entitled to a minimum of 28 days holiday with eight bank holidays added (and depending on the holiday year and the timing of Easter, this could rise to 10 bank holidays).

So, can I ask my staff to work weekends and bank holidays?

The simple answer is yes, of course you can. Whether you can expect them to do so, and the compensation you will have to pay them, depends upon the wording of their contract of employment.

One final thing, if an employer wants to make employees work on bank holidays or weekends and it’s not in the contract, the employer can either rely on the goodwill of the employees or change the contract of employment… but to do that, the change must be agreed between employer and employees. And this is why Jeremy Hunt needs junior doctors to accept their new contract, and the lack of agreement is why the issue has been running for so long.

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If you have any questions or feedback, please do not hesitate to contact me - alex.henman@esuppliesmedical.co.uk - 01865 261451

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