Boost “stingy” bank holiday entitlement with four new days, TUC tells ministers

Elliot Chappell

The TUC has called on the government to create four additional bank holidays, highlighting that people in some countries enjoy twice as many days as the “stingy” entitlement afforded to workers in England and Wales.

Commenting on the final bank holiday of the summer today, Frances O’Grady described it as a “welcome break for everyone working hard to get us through the pandemic” but pointed out that the next one would not take place until Christmas.

“And that’s because the number of holidays we get is so stingy compared to other nations. A few more public holidays would be a great way to thank working Britain for getting us through these tough times,” the TUC general secretary said.

“It would level us up with other workers around the world. It’s time for a national conversation – when should our new holidays be? What might they celebrate?”

People living in England and Wales get eight bank holidays each year. This compares to the 11 public holidays enjoyed by workers in Scotland and the ten afforded to those in Northern Ireland. The EU average is 12.8 days per year.

Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland and Cyprus top the EU table, with 15 days each. No country in the EU has less bank holidays than those enjoyed in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. All but five have more than 11.

Bank holiday entitlement in the UK also compares poorly to nations outside of Europe. Columbia has 18 public holidays, Japan has celebrated 17 this year, 12 have been held in Australia and 11 each in China and New Zealand, for example.

The TUC has told the government that workers across the UK should receive 12 public holidays and that this should be reflected in statutory holiday entitlement, with those working the days afforded the right to a pay premium or time off in lieu.

The trade union federation also called on ministers to introduce a new bank holiday in between now and Christmas, with O’Grady arguing that an autumn holiday would “break the long stretch to Christmas” and would be a “good start”.

Keir Starmer recently called for an additional day if England were to win the Euros, and Labour proposed the creation of four new bank holidays to celebrate the four patron saints of the UK in its 2019 general election manifesto.

Studies have found that bank holidays have a positive impact on commerce and leisure spending as they prompt an increase in tourism; one in 2018 showed that small shops in the UK saw an average extra boost of £253 in profit.

Another piece of research carried out in Italy in 2014 showed the benefit of a paid day off on staff morale, finding that workers were more productive the day after a public holiday because they were “rested and relaxed”.

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