This guest post is written by Katherine Revels, HR Advisor at Emphasis HR & Training. It explores the pros and cons of flexible bank holidays, an emerging new scheme for accommodating different people’s religious and cultural practices. How might that work for your business? How has it worked for others? What do you need to take into account if you introduce it? Here are some interesting thoughts…
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion – and even the right to follow no religion at all – so why should employees have to take off Good Friday, Easter Monday and Christmas Day if they don’t celebrate these Christian festivals? Employees may prefer to take time off around Chinese New Year, Eid, Diwali, Passover, during PRIDE month, or on another personally meaningful day. By having the additional eight (or nine in 2022!) holidays to use when they would prefer, employees are likely to feel more valued and respected.
During 2021 the business and financial advisers Grant Thornton launched a new approach to flexibility and bank holidays by offering employees the choice to take bank holidays on dates they prefer, rather than on the prescribed UK bank holiday dates. For many Grant Thornton employees, this is a refreshing approach to inclusivity and has increased workplace flexibility, as leaders have acknowledged not everyone wants to celebrate the same events. This policy was introduced following the pandemic when the firm were reviewing workplace flexibility and agility. Perry Burton, Head of People and Culture at Grant Thornton UK, said:
“Flexibility and agility have always been at the centre of the way we work at Grant Thornton but working remotely throughout the pandemic, and the heightened experience of balancing personal and professional responsibilities, has shown us the way to make changes that will support our people in the new, flexible, hybrid working world of the future.”
The music and podcast streaming company Spotify also runs a flexible holiday practice whereby employees can trade their standard bank holiday on a different day to fit in with their personal values, beliefs and celebration calendar. Although swapping days requires management approval to ensure operational effectiveness, there are no questions asked as to why they are asking for the trade. Spotify insist: “This is important; nobody gets to decide what’s an important holiday for anyone else.” Employees are reported to view this as a very positive benefit with many making swaps.
Although there are clear flexibility, diversity and inclusion benefits, the operational costs and considerations of moving to flexi bank holidays also need to be made. The cost of swapping work and bank holidays is zero as the work still happens, just on a different day to the one originally intended, and any additional administrative outlay is likely to be minimal.
The greatest consideration will be whether it is operationally appropriate or effective to have some employees working on statutory bank holidays, whilst others are off. Questions which may arise around this topic:
- What work will they be able to do whilst everyone is off?
- What if my office is locked during statutory holidays and not everyone has a key?
- What if I have an IT issue and the IT team aren’t available that day?
The questions above are all valid and it needs an open mindset to see if this approach will work for your business.
Flexible bank holidays introduce a relatively new concept, and one which your team may thoroughly appreciate. If it could work for your business, why not have a conversation with your team to see if this is a benefit they would find meaningful? Having an inclusive policy such as flexi bank holidays celebrates employee differences and encourages a diverse and valued workforce. Is this an approach you will consider?
Contact Emphasis HR at [email protected] for further advice and support on making flexible bank holidays work within your business.
- Grant Thornton launches inclusive, flexible approach to public holidays
- Seven months with Flexible Public Holidays | HR Blog (spotify.com)