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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, although an increasing number of 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. Legally defined holidays, analogous to "public holidays" in many other countries, are usually called bank holidays in the United Kingdom, but can also be referred to as "public holidays"; strictly, however, "public holidays" refer to "common law holidays", the observance of which derive from custom and practice (see "Terminology" below).

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  • ✪ Why you should holiday in Britain



Regional variations

  • In Britain, while New Year's Day and Christmas Day are national holidays, other bank holidays are not necessarily public holidays, since the Scots instead observe traditional local custom and practice for their public holidays.
  • In Northern Ireland, once again, bank holidays other than New Year's Day and Christmas Day are not necessarily public holidays.
  • Good Friday and Christmas Day are common law holidays, except in Scotland, where they are bank holidays.[1][2][3][4]
  • In Scotland the holiday on 1 January (or 2 January if 1 January is Sunday) is statutory. If New Year's Day is Saturday a substitute holiday is given on 4 January by Royal Proclamation. 2 January is given by Royal Proclamation, with a substitute holiday on 4 January if it is Saturday and 3 January if it is Sunday or Monday. Outside Scotland, 1 January is given by Royal Proclamation, or 3 January if it is Saturday and 2 January if it is Sunday.
  • In Scotland, 25 December is a statutory holiday (or 26 December if Christmas Day falls on a Sunday). 26 December is given by Royal Proclamation if it is neither Saturday, Sunday or Monday. 27 and 28 December are given by Royal Proclamation if Christmas Day is Saturday. 28 December only is given if Boxing Day is Saturday.
  • Outside Scotland, if Christmas Day is a Sunday there is an additional statutory holiday on 27 December. By Royal Proclamation, if Christmas Day is a Saturday there is a substitute holiday on 28 December. If Boxing Day is a Sunday there is again a statutory holiday on 27 December, and if Boxing Day is a Saturday there is a substitute holiday by Royal Proclamation on 28 December. Effectively what happens is that if a holiday falls at the weekend a substitute day is given in lieu.

Proposals for change

The United Kingdom has no national day holiday marked and/or celebrated for its formal founding date.

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). This would equal Northern Ireland which has St Patrick's Day as a holiday. The Scottish Parliament has passed a law creating a special public holiday on St Andrew's Day but unlike other bank holidays it must be taken by workers in lieu of another public holiday (bank holiday).[5] An online petition to the Prime Minister as to Wales received 11,000 signatures. There are advocates in Cornwall for a public holiday on St Piran's Day.


The two terms "bank holidays" and "public holidays" 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 only date which would seem to qualify nationally as one and not the other is Easter Sunday on which it would be strange to treat as an ordinary date for great governmental business and many shops reduce their hours further than their normal Sunday routine. However informally on various days in various areas or streets – usually where one religion accounts for most of the population or has a resonance – in Britain other dates are commonly avoided for business opening and treated as local holidays.

Creation of holidays

Bank holidays may be declared in two ways:

  • by statute (statutory holidays) – Holidays specifically listed in the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, Schedule 1.[6]
  • by royal proclamation – This has been used for annual bank holidays created since 1971, and is also used to move a bank holiday in a given year,[7] and to create extra one-off bank holidays for special occasions.[8] (The Act does not provide for a bank holiday to be suppressed by royal proclamation without appointing another day in its place).[9]

Changes in date

Unlike the US, where public holidays falling on a Saturday are sometimes observed on the preceding Friday, British bank holidays are always moved to a later date, not an earlier one.[1][2][3][4]

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.[10] 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).[11]

England, Northern Ireland and Wales

Date Name Notes England Northern Ireland Wales
1 January New Year's Day From 1974, by Royal Proclamation. See one of the substitutes below if 1 January falls on Saturday or Sunday.[1][2][3][4] ☑Y ☑Y ☑Y
2 January not named By Royal Proclamation, only in a year in which 1 January is a Sunday. Not applicable in 2019. In a year in which it occurs 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.
3 January not named By Royal Proclamation, only in a year in which 1 January is a Saturday. Not applicable in 2019.
17 March St. Patrick's Day Northern Ireland only. ☑Y
18 March not named Northern Ireland only, when 17 March is a Sunday. Public Holiday in 2019.
19 March not named Northern Ireland only, when 17 March is a Saturday. Not applicable in 2019.
variable Good Friday Traditional common law holiday elevated to a statutory footing.[1][2][3][4] Falls on 19 April in 2019. ☑Y ☑Y ☑Y
Easter Monday Statutory bank holiday from 1871,[1] defined by name.[12] Falls on 22 April in 2019. ☑Y ☑Y ☑Y
First Monday in May May Day Bank Holiday From 1978, by Royal Proclamation.[1][2][3][4] Falls on 6 May in 2019. ☑Y ☑Y ☑Y
Last Monday in May Spring Bank Holiday or Summer Half-Term Monday Statutory bank holiday from 1971,[12] following a trial period from 1965 to 1970. Replaced Whit Monday, which had been a public holiday since 1871,[1] 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.[12][13][14] The legislation does not specify a name for the holiday, merely when it occurs. Falls on 27 May in 2019. ☑Y ☑Y ☑Y
12 July Battle of the Boyne (Orangeman's Day)[15] Northern Ireland only. ☑Y
13 July not named Northern Ireland only, when 12 July is a Sunday. Not applicable in 2019.
14 July not named Northern Ireland only, when 12 July is a Saturday. Not applicable in 2019.
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") which had been in use from 1871.[1][4][12] The legislation does not specify a name for the holiday, merely when it occurs. Falls on 26 August in 2019. ☑Y ☑Y ☑Y
25 December Christmas Day Traditional common law holiday.[1][2][3][4] ☑Y ☑Y ☑Y
26 December (see Notes) Boxing Day Statutory bank holiday from 1871.[1] Legislation does not name the holiday, but states that it falls on "26th December, if it be not a Sunday."[12] Public Holiday in 2019. ☑Y ☑Y ☑Y
27 December not named Statutory bank holiday only in a year in which 25 December is either on a Saturday or Sunday.[12] This has the effect of adding an extra holiday when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday.
28 December not named By Royal Proclamation. This is an extra holiday added when either Christmas Day or Boxing Day falls on a Saturday.
Total holidays 8 10 8
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



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 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


  • The observance of Christmas Day was abolished by an Act of Parliament in 1640.[25] It was later restored in 1958.[26][27][28]
  • Boxing Day (26 December) became a public holiday in Scotland in 1974. See also Christmas in Scotland.

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


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


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j UK Bank Holidays,, Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Why are bank holidays called bank holidays,, Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  3. ^ a b c d e f When is the next Bank Holiday?,, Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Department for Business Innovation & Skills: Bank holidays and British summertime,, Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  5. ^ a b "St Andrew's Day Bill". 7 April 2005. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  6. ^ Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, Sec.1(1),, Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  7. ^ Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, Sec.1(2),, Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  8. ^ Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, Sec.1(3),, Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  9. ^ Bank holidays and British Summer Time,, Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  10. ^ Her Majesty's Government (23 September 2016). "Holiday pay: the basics". Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  11. ^ "Holiday Entitlement". 2016. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, Schedule 1,, Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  13. ^ Time and Date: Spring Bank Holiday in United Kingdom,, Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  14. ^ Time and Date: Whit Monday in United Kingdom,, Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  15. ^ "Bank Holidays". NI Direct. Retrieved 25 March 2012.
  16. ^ "BBC History Events". BBC News. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  17. ^ "The Silver Jubilee: 25 Facts". The British monarchy. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  18. ^ "1981: Charles and Diana marry". BBC News. 2008. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  19. ^ "Early May Bank Holiday in United Kingdom". Time and Date. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  20. ^ "UK Extra millennium holiday confirmed". BBC News. 23 June 1999. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  21. ^ "'Extra holiday' for Queen's jubilee". BBC News. 24 November 2000. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  22. ^ Peachey, Kevin (20 May 2012). "Diamond Jubilee: Your rights to a day off work". BBC News. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  23. ^ BBC (8 June 2019). "May bank holiday 2020 changed for VE day anniversary". Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ University of St Andrews (2 June 1640). "Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707:Act discharging the Yule vacation". Archived from the original on 19 May 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  26. ^ "Christmas and New Year traditions in Scotland". Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  27. ^ "Act discharging 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". 19 May 2012. Archived from the original on 19 May 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  28. ^ Todd, Margo (2002). The Culture of Protestantism in Early Modern Scotland. Yale University Press. p. 187. ISBN 0-300-09234-2.
  29. ^ Scottish Government, St Andrew's House (14 January 2005). "BANK HOLIDAYS (STATUTORY) IN SCOTLAND". Retrieved 15 January 2018.

External links

This page was last edited on 9 June 2019, at 14:43
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