This note provides a short overview of the law relevant to rights to time off work during bank and public holidays. It also provides some background on the origin of bank holidays.

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This note sets out:

  • the background to bank and public holidays
  • their basis in law
  • rights to time off on bank/public holidays
  • proposals for additional bank holidays

Bank holidays are set by statute; other public holidays such as Good Friday and Christmas Day are holidays by convention, often termed common law or public holidays.  The terms are commonly used interchangeably, with “bank holidays” generally understood to refer to bank holidays set out in statute, royally proclaimed holidays and common law public holidays.

The legislation defining bank holidays concerns financial dealings; it does not provide rights to annual leave. A worker’s right, or lack thereof, to annual leave on these days derives from his contract. The 5.6 week statutory holiday entitlement is inclusive of bank holidays. Absent any contractual term to the contrary, an employer may require a worker to attend work on a bank holiday.

The bank and public holidays

There are eight holidays in England and Wales, nine in Scotland and ten in Northern Ireland.  

England and Wales

  • New Year’s Day 
  • Good Friday 
  • Easter Monday 
  • First Monday in May 
  • Last Monday in May 
  • Last Monday in August 
  • Christmas Day 
  • Boxing Day 

Scotland

  • New Year’s Day 
  • 2 January 
  • Good Friday 
  • First Monday in May 
  • Last Monday in May 
  • First Monday in August 
  • St Andrew’s Day (30 November) 
  • Christmas Day 
  • Boxing Day 

Northern Ireland

  • New Year’s Day 
  • St Patrick’s Day (17 March) 
  • Good Friday 
  • Easter Monday 
  • First Monday in May 
  • Last Monday in May 
  • Battle of the Boyne (Orangemen’s Day, 12 July) 
  • Last Monday in August 
  • Christmas Day 
  • Boxing Day 
  • Commons Research Briefing SN06170
  • Author: Douglas Pyper
  • Topics: Work & Incomes

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