What is a bank holiday?

May 6, time to get back to work after Early May Bank Holiday. And first think to do today is give an answer to a question a lot of people have: what is a bank holiday?

First thing to know is that bank holidays don’t exist everywhere (and this is why people don’t know about them). These are public holidays in the United Kingdom, Commonwealth countries, other European countries such as Switzerland, and a colloquialism for a public holiday in Ireland.

They are often assumed to be so called because they are days upon which banks are shut, although days that banks are shut aren’t always bank holidays (for example Good Friday and Christmas Day which are common law holidays). Hence, the term “bank holiday” was coined by Sir John Lubbock, who felt there was a need to differentiate the two types of holiday.

Prior to 1834, the Bank of England observed about 33 saints’ days and religious festivals as holidays, but in 1834, this was reduced to just four: 1 May, 1 November, Good Friday, and Christmas Day.

The first legislation relating to bank holidays was passed in 1871 with the Bank Holidays Act which specified four holidays in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and five in Scotland. These were Easter Monday, the first Monday in August, the 26th December, and Whit Monday (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and New Year’s Day, Good Friday, the first Monday in May, the first Monday in August, and Christmas Day (in Scotland).

From 1965 the date of the August bank holiday was changed to the end of the month in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The Whitsun bank holiday (Whit Monday) was replaced by the late spring bank holiday – fixed as the last Monday in May.

So today there are 8 permanent bank and public holidays in England and Wales, 9 in Scotland and 10 in Northern Ireland. Contrary to popular belief, people do not have an absolute right to paid leave on bank and public holidays: it depends on the terms of the contract of employment, but many people working on these days do receive extra money.

So next one approaching is Spring Bank Holiday. Any plans?

bank holidays

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