Why are bank holidays called bank holidays

01:00 Mon 03rd Sep 2001 |

Q. Why 'bank' holidays

A. It's as obvious as it sounds. Bank holidays are days - literally - on which banks may close for business.

Q. Why 'bank' and not 'fishmonger' then, if fishmongers are also closed

A. Because on these days, when the financial system comes to a stop, the law makes provision for certain payments to be deferred until the next appropriate day without penalty. The same exemption doesn't apply to fish.

Q. Are all our public holidays bank holidays

A. Holidays in England and Wales fall in to three categories: 'Common Law' (or 'Public') holidays; 'Holidays by Royal Proclamation'; and 'Statutory' (or 'Bank') holidays.

Q. Which are which

A. Common Law holidays are Good Friday and Christmas day. If Christmas day falls on a weekend, it is observed on the following Monday.

Holidays designated by Royal Proclamation are New Year's day (since 1974) and the first Monday in May (since 1978). When New Year's day has fallen on a weekend, the Queen has traditionally designated the following Monday as a proclaimed holiday.

The Statutory (or Bank) holidays are Easter Monday, the last Monday in May, the last Monday in August and Boxing Day. If Boxing Day falls on a weekend, it is observed on the following Monday, unless Christmas also falls on a weekend, in which case Boxing Day is observed on the following Tuesday.

It is commonly accepted - though inaccurate - English usage to refer to all 8 of these days as Bank holidays.

Q. Does a bank holiday automatically entitle an employee to a holiday

A. No. However, in many parts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, bank holidays have become widely observed. Employees' terms and conditions of employment therefore commonly include entitlement to a holiday on those days. In Scotland, although bank holidays are observed in the banking and financial sector, they have less nationwide significance; the public and business community in Scotland tend instead to observe various local and traditional days.

Q. Who decides which days are to be designated

A. The expected dates of bank and public holidays in England, Wales and Northern Ireland for 2000-2004 inclusive have been announced by the Department of Trade and Industry. Following Devolution, dates for Scotland are a matter for the Scottish Executive.

Q. Is there provision for special bank holidays

A. Provisions in the legislation enable the dates of bank holidays to be changed or other holidays to be declared, for example to celebrate special occasions. The most recent examples of special bank holidays were for the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977, the Royal Wedding in 1981 and the Millennium holiday in 1999.

A special bank holiday for the Queen's Golden Jubilee will take place 3 June 2002. This was announced in Parliament on 23 November 2000.

Q. How do UK workers fare for holidays when compared with our European neighbours

A. Not very well. The eight days allotted to workers in England, Scotland and Wales are the lowest in the EU, where the average is 10.8 days. Only the Dutch share our obvious desire to spend as much time as possible at work. Take a look below; you may want to move to Portugal:

Austria 13

Belgium 10

Denmark 9.5

Finland 12

France 11

Germany 9-12

Greece 10-12

Ireland 9

Italy 12

Luxembourg 10

Netherlands 8

Portugal 12-14

Spain 12-14

Sweden 11

England, Scotland and Wales 8

Northern Ireland 10

EU average 10.8

USA 13

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By Simon Smith

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