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What is a Bank Holiday?

Early May Bank Holiday

If you were able to travel to the UK today you would find it hard to actually do anything and not just due to Covid restrictions, today is a bank holiday, one of eight days off work for people in England and Wales (9 in Scotland and 10 in Northern Ireland!).

Why “bank holiday”?

Bank holiday, as the name implies, shows the days that are paid holidays for bank employees. The concept or usage of bank holidays started in the old Victorian days (19th century UK) when the Bank of England observed holidays on 34 days that were different from saint’s days or other religious occasions. 

However, all this changed with the Bank Holidays Act (1871), when bank holidays were reduced to just 4. A century later, in 1971, the Banking and Financial Dealings Act was passed that again specified bank holidays and added New Year’s day and May day as official bank holidays.

Why Monday May 3rd not May 1st?

In the UK, it is an instrument called Royal Proclamation that is used to declare bank holidays every year. It is a royal proclamation that declares the day in the coming week of a bank holiday if it falls on a weekend. This means that bank holidays are not lost in years when they fall on already declared holidays or weekends. These days are called “substitute days”.

Unlike in France, there are no “ponts” because bank holidays are always on the Monday nearest to the date in question, apart from Christmas, Easter, and New Year. 

Upcoming bank holidays in England and Wales

3 MayMondayEarly May bank holiday
31 MayMondaySpring bank holiday
30 AugustMondaySummer bank holiday
27 DecemberMondayChristmas Day (substitute day)
28 DecemberTuesdayBoxing Day (substitute day)

Here is a list of a few countries ranked according to their number of Bank Holidays: 

COLOMBIA – 18 bank holidays a year

THAILAND – 16 bank holidays a year

JAPAN – 15 bank holidays a year

RUSSIA – 14 bank holidays a year

PAKISTAN – 13 bank holidays a year

BRAZIL – 12 bank holidays a year

FRANCE – 11 bank holidays a year

USA – 10 bank holidays a year

NORTHERN IRELAND – 10 bank holidays a year

SCOTLAND – 9 bank holidays a year

ENGLAND & WALES – 8 bank holidays a year

MEXICO – 7 bank holidays a year

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