Workers are a step closer to being entitled to take paid leave for bank holidays in addition to statutory four weeks annual leave.
The plans have been set out in a government consultation and mean that up to two million of the lowest-paid workers stand to benefit from additional leave. Women, part-timers and employees from ethnic minorities are expected to gain the most from the proposals.
Employment relations minister Jim Fitzpatrick says: "The government intends to make sure workers have the right to take paid bank holiday leave.
"When we gave everyone the right to four weeks annual leave in 1998, two million workers got paid holiday for the very first time. There are still many people, particularly the lowest paid, who have to take bank holidays from their leave entitlement. The government is determined to ensure they get the extra leave they deserve."
Ministers propose to phase in additional leave, starting with an increase from 20 to 24 days (pro rata for part-time workers) from October 1, 2007. The remainder of the leave will either be introduced in one phase, from October 2008, in one phase from October 2009, or in two phases, increasing to 26 days in October 2008 and 28 days from October 2009.
Fitzpatrick adds: "Paid holiday leave is essential to allow people work-life balance. Many good businesses already offer more paid holiday than the statutory four weeks, recognising that it can help keep staff motivated and loyal.