Some employees are set to suffer a breach of their annual leave rights as a result of the way that Easter bank holidays fall this year and next year.

The wording in some employees’ contracts may result in an unanticipated shortfall in their holiday entitlement, for which their employer will be liable, as a result of variations in Easter dates.

The issue will affect employers that operate an annual leave year that runs from 1 April to 31 March, and that set out their employees’ paid annual leave entitlement using wording along the lines of “20 days’ holiday plus bank holidays”.

Under working time rules, employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ annual leave. This equates to 28 days’ leave per year for employees working a five-day week. The 28 days can include bank holidays, of which there are usually eight per year.

The way in which the 2016 Easter break falls means that, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there will be bank holidays on 25 and 28 March.  In 2017, Easter falls later, with Good Friday falling on 14 April and Easter Monday on 17 April.

For a holiday year running 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017, employees will lose out. There is no Easter break during the whole of the annual leave year, meaning that they will be entitled under their contract to just 26 days’ leave.

Failure to honour a contractual clause providing for “20 days’ holiday plus bank holidays” would result in the employer being in breach of contract.

Employers in this position will need to top up employee’s holiday entitlement for the leave year running 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017, to ensure that employees retain their 28-day statutory entitlement.

In our toolkit, we have a one-off increase to holiday entitlement letter to ensure that you do not fall foul of the law.