SMEs not celebrating lost Jubilee trade

Three quarters of small businesses admit they are unhappy about the number of additional bank holidays to celebrate national events such as this summer's Jubilee and last year's Royal Wedding, because they are concerned about lost trade, a business support group survey has found.

As a result, nearly two thirds of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) will refuse staff an extra day's holiday for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, with 62 per cent of SMEs planning to open for business as usual.

Peter Mooney, head of consultancy for ELAS, said: "This is the second year running that businesses have been asked to foot the bill for a royal celebration.

"While most people don't want to begrudge the Queen wanting to celebrate 60 years on the throne, these are businesses which are in many cases already hard-pressed to make ends meet, and which simply cannot afford another day's lost trade."

According to the survey, many businesses may amend employee contracts to state that staff are entitled to a total of 28 days' paid leave including any bank holidays. In doing so, staff will be forced to take the extra day off out of their holiday entitlement. Employees on this type of contract will find that an increased number of bank holidays will leave fewer days which they can take off as and when they choose.

This year, the Government has moved the Whitsun bank holiday back a week to June 4 and has also declared an additional bank holiday on Tuesday 5 June to create a four-day weekend marking the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

The move will have a knock-on effect for SMEs, including higher wage bills for those that choose to open as usual on the extra bank holiday, and lost productivity and revenue for those that don't, says ELAS.

Peter Moody added that many employers have also had to deal with a 'rush of requests' from employees wanting to take the remaining three days off, to take advantage of nine days holiday (including weekends) by using three days' leave.

"Add to that the demand for time off during the Olympics and businesses face a summer of skeletal staff in addition to the usual six weeks of school holidays they are used to," he added.

Commenting on the Jubilee celebrations, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) called for employers to ensure workers would not miss out on the 'unique' celebrations.

Brendan Barber, general secretary for the TUC, said: "The annoyance and ill-will that will be caused by forcing staff to work while everyone else is out having a nice time will far outweigh any benefits from one extra day in the office. There is still time for employers to do the right thing and give staff a day's paid on leave on Tuesday 5 June."