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Bank Holiday

A Bank Holiday is a public holiday in the United Kingdom and also in the Republic of Ireland. Although there is no legal right to time off on these days, the majority of the population not employed in essential services (e.g. utilities, fire, ambulance, police, health-workers) receive them as holidays; those employed in essential services usually receive extra pay for working on these days. Bank holidays are so called because they are days upon which banks are (or were) shut and therefore (traditionally) no other businesses could operate. Legislation allows certain payments to be deferred to the next working day.

It has been noted (for example in an essay published by the Fabian Society) that the number of holidays in the UK is relatively small compared to the number in many other European countries. There have been calls for an increase in the number, and particularly for recognizing April 23 (St George's Day) in England, March 1 (St David's Day) in Wales, and November 30 (St Andrew's Day) in Scotland to have a public holiday on the feast day of the relevant patron saint. 17 March (St Patrick's Day) is already a bank holiday in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. There are also calls for new national bank holidays such as one to represent the United Kingdom, British Day (possibly part of Gordon Brown's new Britishness policy), Trafalgar Day as a result of the recent bicentennial, Waterloo Day and also one to represent the European Union, making Europe Day a bank holiday, and one to represent the monarchy such as the Queen's Birthday (as in Australia and New Zealand) or coronation.

History of Bank Holidays

Prior to 1834, the Bank of England observed about thirty-three saints' days and religious festivals as holidays, but in 1834, this was drastically reduced to just four: 1 May, 1 November, Good Friday, and Christmas Day.

In 1871, the first legislation relating to bank holidays was passed when Sir John Lubbock introduced the Bank Holidays Act 1871 which specified the days as in the table set out below. Sir John was an enthusiastic supporter of cricket and was firmly of the belief that Bank Employees should have the opportunity to participate and attend matches when they were scheduled. Included in the dates of Bank Holidays are therefore dates when cricket games are traditionally played between the villages in the region where Sir John was raised. Scotland was treated separately because of its separate traditions; for instance, New Year or Hogmanay is a more important holiday there.