Do we get Bank Holidays right?


As the UK slides unto another long weekend of days off in the rain and traffic jams headed for the coasts, attention turns once again to the question of whether we do this right. 

The aim was laudable enough.  When John Lubbock, himself a banker, introduced the Bank Holiday Bill in 1871, the aim was to add statutory holidays.  If banks were closed and no financial transactions could take place, other workers would also gain a day off.  On the whole, Lubbock did better at introducing holidays than he did in teaching his poodle to read.  But the problem is that they come thick and fast in the first half of the year, but are widely spaced thereafter.

By the time we add Good Friday and Easter Monday (technically public holidays rather than bank holidays) to the early and late May holidays, business is regularly disrupted to little good effect.  After the August holiday, there is a desert until Boxing Day on December 26th.  There is a case for moving the workers’ Mayday holiday to October 26th, Trafalgar Day.  Socialist countries celebrate Spring with its planting and its promise; more cautious capitalist ones have their Labour Day in Autumn, when the harvest is in.

Some say there should be no statutory holidays at all, and that workers and employers should fix these between them.  Some look enviously at the EU average of 10.8 days off compared with the UK’s measly 8 days, and suggest adding an extra one.  The day when the UK voted to take back control, June 23rd, suggests itself as a national Independence Day.  Certainly, something should be done to sort out the mess.,