‘You can’t stay here’ | Center Parcs comes under scrutiny with odd bank holiday behaviour

Center Parcs comes under scrutiny with odd bank holiday behaviour

Deep Dive

While the passing of England’s longest-reigning monarch has thrown the country into disarray, with no certainty on protocol, some organisations have handled the upcoming funeral and bank holiday in odd ways, leaving many an HR pro in a conundrum...

The conundrum is a simple, yet incredibly weighty one: in a pluralistic society, with a large variety of beliefs, what should organisations and HR do with the bank holiday and the funeral?

The shortest, safest answer is: treat this bank holiday as you do all bank holidays; if your company contract or common practice allows for the day off, then allow your staff to have it off. If you employ frontline workers or work in hospitality, it’s up to you to offer extra recompense to those who must work, or to close for a short amount of time to allow any team members who wish to, time off to watch the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

Not only must you balance your employees’ needs, you also need to consider your customers’ needs, and to remember that for many, Monday will just be another day, with health, travel, family, work and all other considerations at the forefront.

Guidance issued from the Cabinet Office says: "Depending on the nature and location of their business and the tone of planned events, some businesses may wish to consider closing or postponing events, especially on the day of the state funeral.

“However, this is at the discretion of individual businesses."

While the nation, as ever, is divided in its views on the British Monarchy, this is still a historic occasion and requires careful thought and a unique, sensitive approach from HR and leaders.

As the UK government’s website states: "Monday, September 19, the date of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral, will be a national bank holiday. This bank holiday will operate in the same way as other bank holidays, and there is no statutory entitlement to time off.

"Employers may include bank holidays as part of a worker’s leave entitlement. The bank holiday will be a unique national moment, and we would encourage employers to respond sensitively to requests from workers who wish to take time off."

Creating a culture of inclusion and diversity means ensuring employees respect the differing opinions of their colleagues and interact with each other accordingly

Bank holiday finer details

With everything in the UK of GB & NI up in the air for the past few months in terms of government and overall economy, even the savviest of HR or leaders can be excused for not knowing all the finer details of this bank holiday, nor what to expect or how to act. So, below, HR Grapevine has made note of all the details.

The new bank holiday falls on 19 September this year and was announced by the newly becrowned King Charles during his speech.

Should employees want to watch the funeral (which takes place at Westminster Abbey at 11am on September 19) on television, or travel to London for it, it’s up to each employer how to handle that.

The purpose of the bank holiday is to allow residents of the UK to either pay their respects to the late departed monarch; or to use the day however they see fit. It is up to each employee how they spend their day off. As with all other work issues, it’s important that HR and leaders do not let their personal feelings (no matter how fervent) cloud fair treatment of all staff.

The other important consideration is that your employees will have varying responses to Elizabeth II’s passing, and that conversations in the ‘office’ may get heated. HR professionals may want create a space for that, or to issue a statement about respecting one another’s feelings – particularly important if you employ staff from countries other than the UK, such as the Republic of Ireland.

Lessons we can learn from Center Parcs – when bad HR puts you in the PR hotseat

The issue of whether to give all non-customer-facing staff the day off or to simply close for an hour to allow employees who wish to observe the funeral the chance to, is a fully discretionary one.

But one thing is absolutely for certain: nearly every British business right now is breathing a collective sigh of relief that it is not in Center Parcs' shoes.

In case you’re not familiar with the case, the debacle began, as often is the case, on social media, with the UK arm of the holiday sites company (owned by parent company Brookfield Properties) tweeting Tuesday:

“Following the announcement of the date of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, we have made the decision to close all our UK villages on Monday 19 September at 10am as a mark of respect and to allow as many of our colleagues as possible to be part of this historic moment. ½

"Guests who were due to arrive on Monday 19 September should not travel, we will reopen on Tuesday 20 September to welcome guests. All impacted guests will receive an email from us today. Please visit our website for additional information.”

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