It’s typical, of course, that a three-day bank holiday weekend lies ahead and rain is forecast. But where do Bank Holidays actually come from? What do they mean for your business? And should we have more or less of them?
The Bank of England used to observe about 33 saints’ days and religious festivals as holidays. But in 1834 they reduced this to four.
The Victorians introduced Bank Holidays to the general population and in 1871 Sir John Lubbock authored the first legislation for four Bank Holidays. It was rumoured that Sir John (being a cricket lover as well as a banker) picked our Bank Holiday dates to coincide with the home games of his village’s cricket matches!
But the truth was that the very welcome “St Lubbock’s Days”, as they were briefly known, were all associated with religious festivals and agricultural holidays.
The Act meant that no one should be compelled to make any payment or to do any task upon a Bank Holiday, which he would not be compelled to do or make on Christmas Day or Good Friday. In addition, making a payment or doing something on the day following was equivalent to doing it on the holiday.
Scotland was treated separately because of its separate traditions. Still to this day it has more Bank Holidays than the rest of the UK.
They say everything comes full circle. This week we got news that almost 100 NatWest and Barclays branches will now be opening on Monday in an end to this 144-year tradition.
Responding to customer demands, the banks reason that many people struggle to make it to branches on weekdays or during limited weekend opening hours.
But what will the future hold for Bank Holidays for the rest of us? There are some that are campaigning for more Bank Holidays: for St George’s Day or to mark The Battle of Trafalgar. But no doubt employers and business owners would oppose this.
The Centre for Economics and Business would head in the other direction – wishing to scrap them due to the £2.3bn each Bank Holiday costs the economy!
With eight bank holidays Britain lags behind many European countries, with Spain having a whopping 14!
Should your staff expect time off for Bank Holidays? Surprisingly, there is no automatic right to time off on these days. However, banks close and the majority of the working population is granted time off work (as part of their holiday entitlement) or extra pay for working on these days, depending on their contract.
Annual leave entitlements should be agreed when an employee starts work. Details of holidays and holiday pay should be found in the employee’s written statement or contract of employment.
So don’t put reviewing your employment contracts off until a rainy day. Get in touch with The HR Dept now to make sure you are legally compliant.