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August Bank Holiday

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August Bank Holiday

This article is about the public holiday in the United Kingdom and Ireland. For the bank holiday declared in the USA during the Great Depression, see Emergency Banking Act. For the film, see Bank Holiday (film).

A bank holiday is a public holiday in the United Kingdom, Commonwealth countries, other European countries such as Switzerland, and a colloquialism for a public holiday in Ireland. There is no automatic right to time off on these days, although 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 contract.[1] The first official bank holidays were the four days named in the Bank Holidays Act 1871, but today the term is colloquially (albeit incorrectly) used for public holidays which are not officially bank holidays, for example Good Friday and Christmas Day.


Prior to 1834, the Bank of England observed about 33 saints' days and religious festivals as holidays, but in 1834 this was reduced to four: 1 May (May Day), 1 November (All Saints Day), Good Friday, and Christmas Day. In 1871, the first legislation relating to bank holidays was passed when Liberal politician and banker Sir John Lubbock introduced the Bank Holidays Act 1871, which specified the days in the table below.[2] The English people were so thankful that some called the first Bank Holidays St Lubbock's Days for a while.[3] Scotland was treated separately because of its separate traditions: for example, New Year is a more important holiday there.

Bank holidays 1871
England, Wales, Ireland Scotland
New Year's Day
Easter Monday Good Friday
Whit Monday First Monday in May
First Monday in August First Monday in August
Boxing Day/St Stephen's Day Christmas Day

The Act did not specify Good Friday and Christmas Day as bank holidays in England, Wales, or Ireland because they were already recognised as common law holidays: they had been customary holidays since before records began.[2]

In 1903, the Bank Holiday (Ireland) Act added 17 March, Saint Patrick's Day, as a bank holiday for Ireland only.[4] New Year's Day did not become a bank holiday in England until 1 January 1974.

In the United Kingdom

Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971

Commencing in 1965, on an experimental basis, 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".[5] Each year's date was announced in Parliament on an ad-hoc basis, to the despair of the calendar and diary publishing trade.[6] The rule seems to have been to select the weekend of the last Saturday in August, so that in 1968[7] and 1969[8] 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.[9] The majority of the current bank holidays were specified in the 1971 Act, but New Year's Day and May Day were introduced after 1971.[10] 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.[11] In 1978 the first Monday in May in the UK, and the final Monday of May in Scotland, were designated as bank holidays.[12]

In January 2007, the St Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007 was given royal assent, making 30 November (or the nearest Monday if a weekend) a bank holiday in Scotland.[13]

Royal proclamation

Under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, bank holidays are proclaimed each year by the legal device of a royal proclamation. Royal proclamation is also used to move bank holidays that would otherwise fall on a weekend. 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.

In Scotland

A number of differences apply in Scotland relative to the rest of the United Kingdom. For example, Easter Monday is not a bank holiday. Also, although they share the same name, the Summer Bank Holiday falls on the first Monday of August in Scotland, as opposed to the last Monday in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Bank holidays do not, however, assume the same importance in Scotland as they do elsewhere. Whereas they have effectively become public holidays elsewhere in the United Kingdom, in Scotland there remains a tradition of public holidays based on local tradition and determined by local authorities (for example, the Glasgow Fair and the Dundee Fortnight). In 1996, Scottish banks made the business decision to harmonise their own holidays with the rest of the United Kingdom, with the result that 'bank holidays' in Scotland are neither public holidays nor the days on which banks are closed.

Campaigns for extra bank holidays

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'. In fact, the average number of non-weekend holidays in such countries is only marginally higher (and in some cases lower) than the UK. 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.

There have been calls for more bank holidays.[14] Among the most notable dates absent from the existing list are the feast days of patron saints; 23 April (St George's Day and the birthday of William Shakespeare) in England and 1 March (St David's Day) in Wales are not currently recognised. 17 March (St Patrick's Day) is a public holiday in Northern Ireland and, since 2008, 30 November (St Andrew's Day) is a bank holiday in Scotland. St Piran's Day (patron saint 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.[15][16]

Proposed move of May Day Bank Holiday (England and Wales)

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 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.[17]

It is suggested that a move from the May bank holiday to a St Piran's Day bank holiday in Cornwall, on 5 March, would benefit the Cornish economy by £20-35 million.[18]

1968 Emergency Bank Holiday

During the sterling crisis of 1968, Prime Minister Harold Wilson convened a meeting of the privy council in the early hours of 14 March to declare 15 March a non-statutory bank holiday. This allowed the UK government to close the London gold market in order to stem the losses being suffered by Sterling.[19] It was this meeting that triggered the resignation of Foreign Secretary George Brown.

List of current holidays in the British Isles

Current bank and public holidays
Date Name England and Wales[20] (8) Scotland[20] (9) Northern Ireland [21](10) Republic of Ireland[22] (9) Isle of Man[23] (10)
1 January[decimal 1] New Year's Day Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
2 January[decimal 1] 2 January Green tickY
17 March[decimal 1] St Patrick's Day Green tickY Green tickY
The Friday before Easter Sunday Good Friday Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
The Monday after Easter Sunday Easter Monday Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
First Monday in May[decimal 2][decimal 3] May Day, Early May Bank Holiday Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Last Monday in May[decimal 4][decimal 5] Spring Bank Holiday Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
First Monday in June June Bank Holiday Green tickY
First Friday in June TT Bank Holiday Green tickY
5 July Tynwald Day Green tickY
12 July[decimal 1] The Twelfth, Battle of the Boyne Green tickY
First Monday in August Summer Bank Holiday Green tickY Green tickY
Last Monday in August Summer Bank Holiday Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
Last Monday in October October Bank Holiday Green tickY
30 November[decimal 1] St Andrew's Day Green tickY
25 December[decimal 1] Christmas Day Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
26 December[decimal 1] Boxing Day, St Stephen's Day Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY

In 1999 an additional bank holiday was given (on New Year's Eve, i.e. 31 December 1999) to enable people to prepare for the festivities to mark the arrival of the year 2000.[decimal 6]


In Australia

Public holidays in Australia in general are not called "bank holidays", but there are two specific public holidays declared for certain types of people which are officially named "Bank Holidays":

  • New South Wales has a "Bank Holiday" on the first Monday in August - for employees of banks only.
  • Tasmania has a "Bank Holiday" on Easter Tuesday - for employees of banks and the government only.

Victoria defines all statutory and substituted holidays as "bank holidays"

In Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, the term "bank holiday" is used colloquially to refer to public holidays, since banks are normally closed on these days. Hong Kong has maintained a distinction between public holidays and statutory holidays; the number of days for the latter is fewer.

In India

In India, 15 of the public holidays are bank holidays in India.

In the Republic of Ireland

In Ireland, "bank holiday" is the colloquial term for what are officially "public holidays".

See also


External links


  • UK Government Schedule of bank holidays for the UK
  • UK Statute Law Database
  • Annual leave and public holidays (Ireland)
  • Calendar of all legal Public and Bank Holidays worldwide, until 2050
  • FirstCaribbean International Bank: Bank Holidays in the Caribbean region
  • List of Bank Holidays for the Year 2010 in India
  • List of Bank Holidays and other significant days for the UK
  • Bank Holiday dates for the UK, Scotland and Northern Ireland
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