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Public holidays in the United Kingdom

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In the United Kingdom, public holidays are days on which most businesses and non-essential services are closed. Many retail businesses (especially the larger ones) do open on some of the public holidays. There are restrictions on trading on Sundays and Christmas Day in England and Wales and on New Year's Day and Christmas Day in Scotland. Public holidays defined by statute are called bank holidays, but this term can also be used to include common law holidays, which are held by convention. The term "public holidays" can refer exclusively to common law holidays.[1]

There is no automatic right to time off on these days,[2] but banks close and the majority of the working population is granted time off work or extra pay for working on these days, depending on their contracts.

There are eight bank holidays a year in England and Wales, nine in Scotland and ten in Northern Ireland. Additional days have been allocated for special events, such as royal weddings and jubilees. There are seven bank holidays common to all jurisdictions: New Year’s Day, Good Friday, the early May bank holiday, the Spring bank holiday, the Summer bank holiday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Easter Monday is a bank holiday in both England and Wales and Northern Ireland, but not in Scotland. In Northern Ireland, St Patrick's Day and Orangemen's Day are also bank holidays. In Scotland, 2 January and St Andrew's Day are bank holidays.


In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Good Friday and Christmas Day are common law holidays, having been customary holidays since time immemorial.[3]

Until 1834, the Bank of England observed about 33 saints' days and religious festivals as holidays, but in that year this was reduced to four: 1 May (May Day), 1 November (All Saints' Day), Good Friday and Christmas Day.

The first official bank holidays were named in the Bank Holidays Act 1871, introduced by Liberal politician and banker Sir John Lubbock. [3] Under the Act, no person was compelled to make any payment or to do any act upon a bank holiday which he would not be compelled to do or make on Christmas Day or Good Friday, and the making of a payment or the doing of an act on the following day was equivalent to doing it on the holiday.[4] People were so grateful that some called the first bank holidays St Lubbock's Days for a while.[5]

  • England, Wales and Ireland
    Bank holidays 1871
    Easter Monday
    Whit Monday
    First Monday in August
    26 December (or 27th if 26th is a Sunday)
  • Scotland
    Bank holidays 1871
    New Year's Day
    Good Friday
    First Monday in May
    First Monday in August
    Christmas Day

The Act did not include Good Friday and Christmas Day as bank holidays in England, Wales, or Ireland because they were already recognised as common law holidays.[3]

In 1903, the Bank Holiday (Ireland) Act added 17 March, Saint Patrick's Day, as a bank holiday for Ireland only.[6] New Year's Day did not become a bank holiday in England until 1 January 1974. Boxing Day did not become a bank holiday in Scotland until 1974.

Starting in 1965, experimentally, the August bank holiday weekend was observed at the end of August "to give a lead in extending British holidays over a longer summer period".[7] Each year's date was announced in Parliament on an ad hoc basis, to the despair of the calendar and diary publishing trade.[8] The rule seems to have been to select the weekend of the last Saturday in August, so that in 1968[9] and 1969[10] Bank Holiday Monday actually fell in September.

A century after the 1871 Act, the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, which currently regulates bank holidays in the UK, was passed.[11] The majority of the current bank holidays were specified in the 1971 Act: however New Year's Day and May Day were not introduced throughout the whole of the UK until 1974 and 1978 respectively.[12] The date of the August bank holiday was changed from the first Monday in August to the last Monday in August, and the Whitsun bank holiday (Whit Monday) was replaced by the Late Spring Bank Holiday, fixed as the last Monday in May.[13] From 1978, the final Monday of May in Scotland (a statutory holiday in the rest of the UK) and the first Monday in May in the rest of the UK (a statutory holiday in Scotland) have been proclaimed as bank holidays.[14]

In January 2007, the St Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007 was given royal assent, making 30 November (or the next Monday if a weekend) a bank holiday in Scotland.[15]


In general, increasingly, are calls for extra public holidays on the patron saints' days in England (for St. George's Day), and Wales (for St. David's Day).[citation needed] This would equal Northern Ireland which has St Patrick's Day as a holiday. An online petition to the Prime Minister as to Wales received 11,000 signatures.[citation needed] There are advocates in Cornwall for a public holiday on St Piran's Day.[who?]

In 2009, it was reported that St Piran's Day (patron saint of the county of Cornwall) on 5 March is already given as an unofficial day off to many government and other workers in the county, and there are renewed calls for the government to recognise this as an official bank holiday there.[16][17] It is suggested that a move from the May bank holiday to a St Piran's Day bank holiday in Cornwall would benefit the Cornish economy by £20–35 million.[18]

The number of holidays in the UK is relatively small compared to many other European countries. However, direct comparison is inaccurate since the 'substitute day' scheme of deferment does not apply in most European countries, where holidays that coincide with a weekend (29% of fixed-date holidays) are 'lost'.[citation needed] In fact, the average number of non-weekend holidays in such countries is only marginally higher (and in some cases lower) than the UK.[citation needed] Worth mentioning is that public holidays in Europe which fall on Thursday or Tuesday typically become "puente" or "bridge" four-day or even six-day extended holiday weekends as people tend to use one or two days from their holiday entitlement to take off Monday and/or Friday.[citation needed]

After the election of the coalition government in May 2010, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport launched a pre-consultation in 2011 which included the suggestion of moving the May Day Bank Holiday to October, to be a "UK Day" or "Trafalgar Day" (21 October) or to St David's Day and St George's Day.[19]

Legal basis

Bank holidays are established in several ways:

  • by statute (statutory holidays) – Holidays specifically listed in the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971.[20]
  • by royal proclamation – Under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, bank holidays are proclaimed each year by the legal device of a royal proclamation.
  • by convention (common law holidays) - Holidays established in common law (not applicable in Scotland, which does not practise common law)

Royal proclamation is also used to move bank holidays that would otherwise fall on a weekend and to create extra one-off bank holidays for special occasions.[21] The Act does not provide for a bank holiday to be suppressed by royal proclamation without appointing another day in its place.[22] In this way, public holidays are not 'lost' in years when they coincide with weekends. These deferred bank holiday days are termed a 'bank holiday in lieu' of the typical anniversary date. In the legislation they are known as 'substitute days'. The movement of the St Andrew's Day Scottish holiday to the nearest Monday when 30 November is a weekend day is statutory and does not require a proclamation.[23] Bank holidays falling on a weekend are always moved to a later date, not an earlier one.[24][25][26]

Unlike the US, where public holidays falling on a Saturday are sometimes observed on the preceding Friday, UK bank holidays are always moved to a later date, not an earlier one.[24][25][26]

Workers' rights

Although there is no statutory right for workers to take paid leave on bank holidays, where paid leave is given (either because the business is closed or for other reasons), the bank holiday can count towards the minimum statutory holiday entitlement. Likewise, if people are required to work on a bank holiday, there is no statutory right to an enhanced pay rate nor to a day off in lieu, although many employers do give either or both. Any rights in this respect depend on the person's contract of employment.[27] The statutory minimum paid holidays is 28 days or 5.6 weeks a year under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (including any bank holidays or public holidays that are taken).[28]

Dates in England, Northern Ireland and Wales

Date Occasion Type Notes Region
England and Wales Northern Ireland
1/2/3 January New Year's Day Proclaimed Falls on 1 January unless this is a Saturday or Sunday.[24][25][26] 1 January was a statutory holiday before 1974. In a year in which it doesn't occur on 1 January, it can be referred to (as for all such dates in lieu) in various ways, such as "Monday bank holiday instead of New Year's Day". For audiences familiar with British holidays, such as in many British diary series, it may be marked "New Year's Day holiday" with or without "(in lieu)" afterwards. Falls on 1 January in 2020.
17/18/19 March St. Patrick's Day Statutory or proclaimed Northern Ireland only. 17 March by statute if this is not a Sunday. 18 March by statute if this is a Monday. 19 March by proclamation if this is a Monday. Falls on 17 March in 2020.
Variable Good Friday Common law[24][25][26] Falls on 10 April in 2020.
Variable Easter Monday Statutory Statutory bank holiday from 1871, defined by name.[29] Falls on 13 April in 2020.
First Monday in May May Day Bank Holiday Proclaimed From 1978, by Royal Proclamation.[24][25][26] Falls on 4 May in 2020. In 2020 this was moved to Friday 8 May to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE day.[30]
Last Monday in May Spring Bank Holiday or Summer Half-Term Monday Statutory Statutory bank holiday from 1971,[29] following a trial period from 1965 to 1971. Replaced Whit Monday, which had been a public holiday since 1871, and whose date varied according to the date of Easter. Most schools fix a minimum of a week's break to coincide, giving the alternative name.[29][31][32] The legislation does not specify a name for the holiday, merely when it occurs. Falls on 25 May in 2020.
12/13/14 July Battle of the Boyne (Orangeman's Day)[33] Proclaimed Northern Ireland only. Falls on the 12 July unless this is a Saturday or Sunday. Falls on 13 July in 2020.
Last Monday in August Late Summer Bank Holiday Statutory Statutory bank holiday from 1971,[29] following a trial period from 1965 to 1971. Replaced the first Monday in August (formerly commonly known as "August Bank Holiday") which had been in use from 1871.[26][29] The legislation does not specify a name for the holiday, merely when it occurs. Falls on 31 August in 2020.
25 December Christmas Day Common law[24][25][26]
26 December/None Boxing Day Statutory Statutory bank holiday from 1871. Legislation does not name the holiday, but states that it falls on "26th December, if it be not a Sunday."[29] Public Holiday in 2020.
27 December/None Not named Statutory Only in a year in which 25 December is either on a Saturday or Sunday.[29] This has the effect of adding an extra holiday when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday.
28 December/None Not named Proclaimed This is an extra holiday added when either Christmas Day or Boxing Day falls on a Saturday.
Total holidays 8 10


In 1995 the May Bank Holiday was moved to 8 May for the 50th anniversary of VE Day
In 1995 the May Bank Holiday was moved to 8 May for the 50th anniversary of VE Day
  • In 1968–69 the new "August" bank holiday fell in September. This was as a result of the decision to move the holiday to the end of the month, and the nearest Monday being taken. The current definition was introduced in 1971.
  • In 1995 the May Day bank holiday was moved to 8 May as it was the 50th anniversary of VE Day.[34]
  • In 2002, there was a special holiday on Monday, 3 June, to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II. The Spring Bank Holiday was moved from 27 May to 4 June to make a four-day weekend.[35]
  • In 2012, there was a special holiday on Tuesday, 5 June, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. The Spring Bank Holiday moved to Monday, 4 June 2012 to make a four-day weekend.[36]
  • In 2020, the May bank holiday originally set for Monday, 4 May was moved to Friday, 8 May to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day.[37][38]
  • In 2022, there will a special holiday on Friday, 3 June, to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II. The Spring Bank Holiday will be moved to Thursday, 2 June to make a four-day weekend.[39]

Dates in Scotland

National bank holidays

Date Occasion Type Notes
1/2/4 January New Year's Day Statutory or proclaimed 1 January by statute when this is not a Saturday or Sunday. 2 January by statute when this is a Monday. 4 January by proclamation when this is a Tuesday.
2/3/4 January New Year Holiday Statutory or proclaimed 2 January by statute when this is not a Saturday or Sunday. 3 January by statute when this a Monday, or by proclamation when this is a Tuesday. 4 January by proclamation when this is a Monday.
Variable Good Friday Statutory
First Monday in May May Day Statutory
Last Monday in May Spring Holiday Proclaimed
First Monday in August Summer Holiday Statutory
30 November St. Andrew's Day Statutory Unlike other bank holidays it must be taken by workers in lieu of another bank holiday.[40]
25/26 December Christmas Day Statutory The observance of Christmas Day was abolished by an Act of Parliament in 1640.[41][42][43] It was included in the schedule to the Bank Holidays Act 1871.[44]
26/27/28 December Boxing Day Proclaimed Boxing Day (26 December) became a public holiday in Scotland in 1974. See also Christmas in Scotland.


Local holidays

Local holidays are 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 protests about banks opening on 2 January since this decision was taken.[citation needed] 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
Wednesday after last Tuesday in January Day after Up Helly Aa fire festival Shetland
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, except 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.
an official holiday in Angus, Fife, Scottish Borders
25 December Christmas Day all
26 December Boxing Day all

Special holidays

See also


  1. ^ Pyper, Douglas (18 December 2015). "Bank and public holidays" – via Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ "UK Bank Holidays". 14 August 2018. Archived from the original on 14 August 2018. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Anon (22 May 2007). "Bank Holiday Fact File" (PDF). TUC press release. TUC. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 June 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2010.
  4. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bank Holidays". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 320.
  5. ^ Olmert, Michael (1996). Milton's Teeth and Ovid's Umbrella: Curiouser & Curiouser Adventures in History, p.170. Simon & Schuster, New York. ISBN 0-684-80164-7.
  6. ^ "Bank Holidays (Ireland) Bill". Hansard, the Official Report of debates in Parliament. UK Parliament. Archived from the original on 24 February 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2010.
  7. ^ "Bank Holiday on the Last Monday in August". The Times Digital Archive. 5 March 1964. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  8. ^ "1969 Dilemma on Diary Dates". The Times Digital Archive. 27 January 1967. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  9. ^ "Bank Holiday Dates For 1967 And 1968". The Times Digital Archive. 4 June 1965. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  10. ^ "1969 Bank Holidays". The Times Digital Archive. 22 March 1967. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  11. ^ Ready, Nigel P.; Brooke, Richard (2002), Brooke's notary (12 ed.), Sweet & Maxwell, p. 479, ISBN 978-0-421-67280-2
  12. ^ Scrope, Henry; Barnett, Daniel (2008), Employment Law Handbook (4 ed.), Henry Scrope, p. 135, ISBN 978-1-85328-674-2
  13. ^ McWhirter, Norris; Stowe, Moira F. (1980), The Guinness book of answers: a handbook of general knowledge (3 ed.), Guinness Superlatives, p. 7, ISBN 978-0-85112-202-1
  14. ^ Morrow, Thomas. "Bank Holidays A Complete History". UK Bank Holidays 2020. Archived from the original on 31 October 2011.
  15. ^ Great Britain Parliament House of Lords European Union Committee (2007), Modernising European Union labour law: has the UK anything to gain?, report with evidence, 22nd report of session 2006–07, The Stationery Office, p. 100, ISBN 978-0-10-485171-5
  16. ^ "Renewed call for St Piran holiday". BBC News. 5 March 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  17. ^ Gledhill, Ruth (5 March 2009). "Cornwall workers given an unofficial day off for St Pirans Day". The Times. London. Retrieved 31 March 2010.[dead link]
  18. ^ "Cornish National Holiday worth £35m". Western Morning News. 23 November 2011. Archived from the original on 24 November 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  19. ^ "Pre-Consultation on moving the May Day Bank Holiday". 12 May 2011.
  20. ^ Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, Sec.1(1), The National Archives. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  21. ^ Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, Sec.1(3), The National Archives. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  22. ^ Bank holidays and British Summer Time[permanent dead link],, Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  23. ^ Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, Sec.1(2),, Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  24. ^ a b c d e f The AnswerBank (3 September 2001). "Why are bank holidays called bank holidays". Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  25. ^ a b c d e f When Is. "When is the next Bank Holiday?". Retrieved 26 October 2011.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g UK bank holidays,, Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  27. ^ Her Majesty's Government. "Holiday entitlement". Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  28. ^ Citation Limited (2019). "Holiday Entitlement". Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  29. ^ a b c d e f g Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, Schedule 1, The National Archives. Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  30. ^
  31. ^ Time and Date (2019). "Spring Bank Holiday in the United Kingdom". Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  32. ^ Time and Date (2019). "Whit Monday in the United Kingdom". Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  33. ^ "Bank Holidays". NI Direct. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  34. ^ "Early May Bank Holiday in United Kingdom". Time and Date. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  35. ^ "'Extra holiday' for Queen's jubilee". BBC News. 24 November 2000. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  36. ^ Peachey, Kevin (20 May 2012). "Diamond Jubilee: Your rights to a day off work". BBC News. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  37. ^ BBC (8 June 2019). "May bank holiday 2020 changed for VE day anniversary". Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  38. ^ Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (7 June 2019). "2020 May bank holiday will be moved to mark 75th anniversary of VE Day". Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  39. ^ a b "Queen's Platinum Jubilee to include extra bank holiday". BBC News. 12 November 2020. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  40. ^ a b Scottish Government (7 April 2005). "St Andrew's Day Bill". Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  41. ^ University of St Andrews (2 June 1740). "Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707: Act dischairging the Yule vacance, appointing the session to sit doun the first of November and ryse the last of Februar, and to sit doune the first of June and ryise the last of Julii". Archived from the original on 19 May 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  42. ^ The Scotsman (24 December 2013). "Christmas and New Year traditions in Scotland". Edinburgh.
  43. ^ Todd, Margo (2002). The Culture of Protestantism in Early Modern Scotland. Yale University Press. p. 187. ISBN 0-300-09234-2.
  44. ^ Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales (1871). The Law Reports: the Public General Statutes passed in the thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth years of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, 1871. London. p. 131.
  45. ^ Scottish Government, St Andrew's House (14 January 2005). "BANK HOLIDAYS (STATUTORY) IN SCOTLAND". Mygov Scotland. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  46. ^ "Statesman who bottled out: 'Tired and Emotional: The Life of Lord George Brown'". The Independent. 9 May 1993.
  47. ^ "BBC History Events". BBC News. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  48. ^ "The Silver Jubilee: 25 Facts". The British monarchy. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  49. ^ "1981: Charles and Diana marry". BBC News. 2008. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  50. ^ "UK Extra millennium holiday confirmed". BBC News. 23 June 1999. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  51. ^ "'Extra holiday' for Queen's jubilee". BBC News. 24 November 2000. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  52. ^ Peachey, Kevin (20 May 2012). "Diamond Jubilee: Your rights to a day off work". BBC News. Retrieved 21 August 2015.

External links

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