WORKERS should get more bank holidays, that’s the view of trade unions representing workers across the UK.

Bank holidays are national public holidays in the UK that are set down in law. The term bank holidays originates from the fact that banks (along with government offices and most businesses) shut down on these days. It is worth noting that until 1834, the Bank of England observed around thirty-three saints' days and religious festivals as staff holidays. In 1834 this was drastically reduced to just four: Good Friday, 1st May, 1st November, and Christmas Day. Over the next century or so, the number of bank holidays remained fairly steady with few changes.

During the 1970s, trade unions successfully fought for workers to have more bank holidays. By then England and Wales had just six public holidays, Scotland had five and Northern Ireland had eight. A huge TUC campaign secured a better deal for UK workers from the government, the result was two new bank holidays across the UK with an extra day in Scotland.

Despite the union successes of the 1970s, workers in the UK continue to have fewer public holidays than their counterparts most other countries within the European Union or the G20 (the twenty countries with the world’s largest economies). There are already inconsistencies across the UK. Currently workers in England, Scotland and Wales have just eight public holidays per year, whilst workers in Scotland have nine and workers in Northern Ireland have ten.

Examples of the numbers of public holidays elsewhere in Europe include: Croatia, 13; Czech Republic, 13; France, 11; Germany 9; Poland 13; Portugal, 13; Spain, 10; Ukraine, 13.

It’s worth noting that some countries (notably Germany and Spain) have several regional public holidays on top of nationally agreed bank holidays.

In 2017 Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn gave his full support to calls for more bank holidays. He announced that a future Labour government will create four more paid bank holidays each year to mark the patron saints of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. He argued that this would be a positive way of celebrating the UK’s history and traditions in a positive and inclusive way. The Labour proposal would urge the four nations work together to ensure that everyone in the UK has the same days off: St David’s Day, patron saint of Wales – 1 March; St Patrick’s Day, patron saint of Ireland – 17 March; St George’s Day, patron saint of England – 23 April; St Andrew’s Day, patron saint of Scotland – 30 November.

Earlier this year Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, suggested that the UK should follow the example of France with an extra bank holiday in May in 2020 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of V.E. day which marks victory in Europe and the defeat of fascism in World War Two. The Trades Union Congress regularly publishes information on workers’ rights, for more details go to:

Martin Challender

Communications Officer