Public holidays in the United Kingdom

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Public holidays in the United Kingdom are the public holidays observed in some or all of the countries of the United Kingdom. Most businesses and non-essential services are closed on public holidays, although an increasing number of retail businesses (especially the larger ones) do open on some of the public holidays.

Like Denmark, the United Kingdom has no national day holiday marked and/or celebrated. The lack of a formal founding date and no constitution may be the reason for the lack of a national day.

Although there is no statutory right for workers to take paid leave on public holidays, where paid leave is given (either because the business is closed or for other reasons), the public holiday can count towards the minimum statutory holiday entitlement. Likewise, if you are required to work on a public holiday, there is no statutory right to an enhanced pay rate nor to a day off in lieu (alternative day off), although many employers do give either or both. Any rights in this respect depend on the person's contract of employment.[1] The statutory minimum holidays are currently 5.6 weeks a year (including any bank holidays or public holidays that are taken).[2]

In Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, public holidays are commonly referred to as bank holidays, and the two terms are often used interchangeably, although strictly and legally there is a difference. A government website describes the difference as follows:

Bank holidays are holidays when banks and many other businesses are closed for the day. Public holidays are holidays which have been observed through custom and practice.

The latter are often referred to as "Common law holidays".[3][4][5][6]

Bank holidays may be declared in two ways:

The distinction between public and bank holidays is discussed in more detail in the article on Bank holidays.

In the rest of this article, the term "public holiday" is used to include all types of public holidays mentioned above.

When a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the holiday is normally postponed to the next following working weekday, which is then referred to as a 'substitute public holiday' or the date on which the public holiday is "observed".[10] This is normally the next following Monday, but if that day is itself already a public holiday or a substitute public holiday, then it may be the following Tuesday. Most commonly this happens when Christmas Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday, in which case the following Monday will be a substitute public holiday for Christmas Day, and the Tuesday will be a substitute holiday for Boxing Day; whereas if Christmas Day falls on a Friday, then it will be observed on the Friday, but Boxing Day (falling on the Saturday) will be observed on the following Monday. In this way, public holidays are not 'lost' on years when they coincide with weekends (which will already be a day off for many people). (Note that, unlike the USA, where public holidays falling on a Saturday are sometimes observed on the preceding Friday, British public holidays are always moved forwards, not backwards.)

Increasingly, there are calls for public holidays on the patron saints' days in England, Scotland and Wales (Northern Ireland already has St Patrick's Day as a holiday). An online petition sent to the Prime Minister received 11,000 signatures for a public holiday in Wales on St. David's Day; the Scottish Parliament has passed a bill creating a public holiday on St. Andrew's Day although it must be taken in lieu of another public holiday;[11] campaigners in England are calling for a bank holiday on St. George's Day; and in Cornwall, there are calls for a public holiday on St. Piran's Day.[citation needed]

England, Northern Ireland and Wales[edit]

Date Name Notes
1 January New Year's Day from 1974, by Royal proclamation annually[3][4][5][6]
17 March St. Patrick's Day Northern Ireland only (this was not an officially recognised public holiday in Northern Ireland until the peace process was signed and from thereon was recognised)
variable Good Friday Traditional Common law holiday[3][4][5][6]
Easter Monday Statutory bank holiday, defined by name.[12]
First Monday in May May Day Bank Holiday from 1978, by Royal proclamation annually[3][4][5][6]
Last Monday in May Spring Bank Holiday Statutory bank holiday from 1971,[12] following a trial period from 1965 to 1970. Replaced Whit Monday, which was formerly a public holiday whose date varied according to the date of Easter.[12][13][14] The legislation does not specify a name for the holiday, merely when it occurs.
12 July Battle of the Boyne (Orangeman's Day)[15] Northern Ireland only
Last Monday in August Late Summer Bank Holiday Statutory bank holiday from 1971,[12] following a trial period from 1965 to 1970. Replaced the first Monday in August (formerly commonly known as "August Bank Holiday".[3][6][12] The legislation does not specify a name for the holiday, merely when it occurs.
25 December Christmas Day Traditional Common law holiday[3][4][5][6]
26 December (see Notes) Boxing Day Statutory bank holiday. Legislation does not name the holiday, but states that it falls on "26th December, if it be not a Sunday."[12]
27 December not named Statutory bank holiday only in a year in which 25th December is either on a Saturday or Sunday.[12] This has the effect of adding an extra holiday when Christmas Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday.
28 December not named Statutory bank holiday only in a year in which 26th December is either on a Saturday or Sunday.[12] This has the effect of adding an extra holiday when Boxing Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday.
Total 8 (England & Wales)
10 (Northern Ireland)
In 1995 the May Bank Holiday was moved to 8 May for the 50th anniversary of VE Day

Notes:

  • In 1968-69 the new "August" bank holiday fell in September, presumably reflecting a definition at that time as Monday after the last Saturday.
  • In 1995 and 2005 the May Day bank holiday was moved to 8 May as it was the 50th and 60th anniversaries of VE Day.
  • In 2011, there was a special holiday on Friday, 29 April, to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, thereby making the previous week a four-day week because of Good Friday, that week a three-day week because of Easter Monday and the following week a four-day week because of May Day. Furthermore, the royal bank holiday falls in the weeks that follow the usual two-week school Easter holiday.
  • In 2012, there was a special holiday on Tuesday, 5 June, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Therefore, to make it a four-day weekend, the Spring Bank Holiday that would usually have occurred at the end of May was pushed back to Monday, 4 June 2012.
  • In 2015, the 28th of December will be Boxing Day (substitute day) as the 26th is a Saturday.

Scotland[edit]

Most bank holidays are not recognised in Scotland, as public holidays are generally determined by local authorities across Scotland. Some of these may be taken in lieu of statutory holidays while others may be additional holidays, although many companies, including Royal Mail, do not follow all the holidays listed below, and many swap between English and local holidays.

Since Easter 1996 the Scottish clearing banks have harmonised the days on which they are closed with those in England and Wales and are therefore closed on Easter Monday and the last Monday in August (rather than the first). This has resulted in a number of local authorities creating a public holiday on Easter Monday. Previously Easter Monday had not been a public holiday in Scotland.

There have been many protests about banks opening on 2 January since this decision was taken. This has resulted in many banks now providing only a limited service on 2 January, with most members of staff still entitled to the holiday

Date Name Major Towns/Cities (not an exhaustive list)
1 January New Year's Day all
2 January
1st Monday in February Winter Holiday Inverness
1st Monday in March Inverness
Last Monday in March Lochaber
Easter holiday (variable) Good Friday Ayr, Dumfries and Galloway, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Inverclyde, Kilmarnock, Paisley, Stirling, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire
Easter Monday Ayr, Edinburgh, Falkirk, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde, Kilmarnock, North Lanarkshire, Paisley, Stirling, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire
1st Monday in April Spring Holiday Carnoustie and Monifieth area, Dundee, Fife, Scottish Borders, Inverness, Perth,
2nd Monday in April Angus, expect Carnoustie and Monifieth area, Elgin
3rd Monday in April, or preceding week if would otherwise coincide with Easter Monday Edinburgh
Monday in April; date varies from year to year Aberdeen
Last Monday in April Inverclyde
1st Monday in May Labour Day or Early May Bank Holiday all
Tuesday after 1st Monday in May Victoria Day (*)/Spring Holiday Clydebank, Stirling
Last Monday strictly before 24 May Edinburgh*
4th Monday in May Perth*
Last Monday in May Ayr, Dundee*, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Paisley*, South Lanarkshire
1st Monday in June Galashiels, Inverclyde, Fife
Tuesday after 2nd Thursday in June Linlithgow Marches Linlithgow
Second Thursday in June Lanimer Day Lanark area only
Last Monday in June Fair Holiday Elgin
Saturday preceding 1st Monday in July Edinburgh
1st Monday in July Falkirk, Inverness
1st Friday in July Braw Lads Gathering Galashiels
2nd Monday in July Fair Holiday Aberdeen
3rd Monday in July Arbroath, Fife, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire except Lanark
4th Friday in July Scottish Borders
Last Monday in July Dundee
1st Monday in August Paisley
1st Monday in September Late Summer Holiday Elgin, Inverclyde
2nd Monday in September Battle of Stirling Bridge Falkirk, Perth, Stirling
3rd Friday in September Ayr Gold Cup Ayr, Kilmarnock
Monday after 3rd Friday in September Ayr, Kilmarnock
3rd Monday in September Autumn Holiday Edinburgh
Last Monday in September Aberdeen, Angus except Carnoustie and Monifieth area, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Paisley, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire
1st Monday in October Carnoustie and Monifieth area, Dundee, Inverness, Perth
2nd Monday in October Scottish Borders
3rd Monday in October Elgin, Fife
1st Monday in November Samhain holiday Inverness
30 November St. Andrew's Day To be taken in lieu
of one of the other statutory holidays at discretion of individual companies/authorities.
[11]
an official holiday in Angus, Fife, Scottish Borders
25 December Christmas Day All
26 December Boxing Day All

Official bank holidays are:

Date Name
1 January New Year's Day
2 January New Year Holiday
variable Good Friday
1st Monday in May May Day
Last Monday in May Spring Holiday
1st Monday in August Summer Holiday
30 November St. Andrew's Day
25 December Christmas Day
26 December Boxing Day
Total 9

[16]

Note: In 2012, there was a special holiday on Tuesday, 5 June, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Most areas in Scotland did not have Monday 4 June as a holiday.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]