HR · 15 December 2016

A small business guide to opening on a bank holiday

Opening on a bank holiday
By opening on a bank holiday, a small business can make gains over larger competition

With three bank holidays landing at the end of this year and into 2017, it’s important for any small business owner to fully understand the rules and regulations regarding bank holiday trading regulations.

Our run-down of the existing legislation will make sure you stay within the law and avoid any penalties, before we reveal the true value of opening on a bank holiday. 

The size of your premises

The government states that small shops in England and Wales have the right to open “any day or hour” of the calendar year.

The definition of small shops, crucially, is premises up to and including 280 metres squared – restrictions still apply even if a section is closed off.

If your company operates beyond the restrictions, it must stay closed on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, and is subject to Sunday trading laws for other bank holidays – a maximum of six consecutive hours between 10am and 6pm. 

Special employment rights

Employers opening on a bank holiday should know that no special employment rights exist for staff coming into work – normal contract terms will apply.

There are no obligations for an increased rate of pay, and there are no rights for employees to demand time off due to a bank holiday.

Legally, the employee cannot refuse to work based on religious grounds. As stated by government, “no automatic rights exist” for workers in Britain on public holidays.

However, it is important to be aware of indirect discrimination. For example, not allowing a Christian employee time off on Christmas Day could be considered indirect religious discrimination, in which case there could be a legal argument against the employer. 

Opening on a bank holiday: What do you stand to gain?

Before this year’s May Day bank holiday, Business Advice uncovered just how much profit a small business owner was sacrificing by not opening on a bank holiday.

In choosing to shut up shop on every UK public holiday, small firms were found to forfeit £2,163 annually. 

Despite research from Yell Business finding that each bank holiday was worth an average £253 in profit to a small business, almost a third of owners opted for a day’s holiday instead.

Delving a little deeper, the same study found that sole traders and freelancers stood to lose the most by not working on a bank holiday. An extra £263 was at stake for each day, as opposed to the owners of micro firms who lost a slightly less £158.

For the entrepreneurs that appreciate the break, Yell Business marketing director, Mark Clisby, offered the following advice: “Ensure you update your website and social media channels with your opening times so it’s really clear to customers when they’re able to use your services again.”

Opening on a bank holiday? Five ways to say thank you to employees.

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Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.


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