A bank holiday is a colloquial term for a public holiday in the United Kingdom, some Commonwealth countries, Hong Kong and the Republic of 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. The first official bank holidays were the four days named in the Bank Holidays Act 1871, but today the term is colloquially used for Good Friday and Christmas Day which were already public holidays under common law and therefore not official bank holidays in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
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. 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. 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. People were so grateful that some called the first Bank Holidays St Lubbock's Days for a while. Scotland was treated separately because of its separate traditions: for example, New Year is a more important holiday there.
|England, Wales and 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 include 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 time immemorial.
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". Each year's date was announced in Parliament on an ad-hoc basis, to the despair of the calendar and diary publishing trade. The rule seems to have been to select the weekend of the last Saturday in August, so that in 1968 and 1969 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. 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. 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. In 1978 the first Monday in May in the rest of the UK, and the final Monday of May in Scotland, were designated as bank holidays.
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.
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. Despite this, it is custom and practice to follow the rest of the UK and banks close on the last Monday and not the first.
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.
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. Among the most notable dates absent from the existing list are the feast days of patron saints; 23 April (St George's Day and widely regarded as 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.
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.
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.
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 to stem the losses being suffered by the British pound. It was this meeting that triggered the resignation of Foreign Secretary George Brown.
In the UK every bank holiday retailers display large sales to entice people to shop on their bank holiday days off. Sales can reach up to 70% off across certain stores. Customers will normally wait for these sales to purchase their home electronics and furniture. The sales are on every year but the bank holiday sales dates can change from year to year. In the UK Argos, Currys and Amazon are the largest retailers that not only have the biggest sales but also see the most revenue over these days.
Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other Commonwealth countries. Boxing Day originated in England in the middle of the nineteenth century under Queen Victoria. For years in which the holiday falls on a weekend, the celebration is moved to make sure workers still get a day off (except in Canada, where it remains 26 Dec.) In the UK it is classed as a Bank Holiday.
|Date||Name||England and Wales (8)||Scotland (9)||Northern Ireland(10)||Republic of Ireland (9)||Isle of Man (10)|
|1 January||New Year's Day|
|2 January||2 January|
|17 March||St Patrick's Day|
|The Friday before Easter Sunday||Good Friday|
|The Monday after Easter Sunday||Easter Monday|
|First Monday in May||May Day, Early May Bank Holiday|
|Last Monday in May||Spring Bank Holiday|
|First Monday in June||June Bank Holiday|
|First Friday in June||TT Bank Holiday|
|5 July||Tynwald Day|
|12 July||The Twelfth, Battle of the Boyne|
|First Monday in August||Summer Bank Holiday|
|Last Monday in August||Late Summer Bank Holiday, August Bank Holiday|
|Last Monday in October||October Bank Holiday|
|30 November||St Andrew's Day|
|25 December||Christmas Day|
|26 December||Boxing Day, St Stephen's Day|
In the past, additional one-off bank holidays have included: (i) Wednesday 14 November 1973, to celebrate the Wedding of Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips at Westminster Abbey, (ii) Tuesday 7 June 1977, to celebrate The Queen’s Silver Jubilee, (iii) Wednesday 29 July 1981, to celebrate the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer at St. Paul's Cathedral,  (iv) Friday 31 December 1999, to enable people to prepare for the festivities to mark the arrival of the new millennium. (v) Monday 3 June 2002 to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee (Spring Bank Holiday was moved to Tuesday 4 June 2002)  (vi) Friday 29 April 2011, to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. (vii) Tuesday 5 June 2012, to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
Public holidays are not generally known as "bank holidays" in Australia, although in the state of Victoria, where all statutory holidays, their substitutes, and Saturdays are legally defined as "bank holidays".
In two other states there are two particular public holidays, for specific occupations only, which are officially known as "Bank Holiday":
In Hong Kong, the term "bank holiday" is used colloquially to refer to public holidays, since banks are normally closed on these days, along with government offices, the legislature, courts, and educational institutions. Hong Kong has maintained a distinction between public holidays and statutory holidays, only the latter of which are mandatory for all employees; the number of days for the latter is fewer by five days.
In India, 15 of the public holidays are bank holidays.
In Ireland, "bank holiday" is a colloquial term, sometimes used incorrectly for what are officially "public holidays". A bank holiday in Ireland are only days in which Bank employees are off, e.g. Good Friday is a Bank Holiday, but not a Public Holiday.