Bank holidays 'cost economy £19bn'

People enjoy bank holiday in 2009 People enjoying a day out on the Serpentine in London's Hyde Park on a bank holiday

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Each bank holiday costs the UK economy £2.3bn and scrapping them would boost annual output by £19bn, economists say.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) think tank wants them to be more spread out over the year to stop businesses "losing momentum".

This year's extra bank holiday for the Diamond Jubilee means there are five in April, May and June outside Scotland, where Easter Monday is not a holiday.

Wales and England usually have eight, Scotland nine and Northern Ireland 10.

The think tank says that if bank holidays were scrapped, Britain's gross domestic product (GDP) - a measure of the value of goods and services produced by all sectors of the economy - would be £19bn higher every year.


  • England and Wales - 2 January; 6 and 9 April; 7 May; 4 and 5 June; 27 August; 25 and 26 December
  • Scotland - 2 and 3 January; 6 April; 7 May; 4 and 5 June; 6 August; 30 November; 25 and 26 December
  • Northern Ireland - 2 January; 19 March; 6 and 9 April; 7 May; 4 and 5 June; 12 July; 27 August; 25 and 26 December

It says the UK depends far more on services than other countries and that sector - with the exception of the hospitality industry - tends to work far less on public holidays.

'Utter rubbish'

CEBR founder Douglas McWilliams told BBC Breakfast: "About 45% of the economy suffers; the offices, the factories, the building sites where people tend not to go to work on bank holiday."

He said 15% of the economy, such as shops, pubs, restaurants and visitor attractions do well.

However, Mr McWilliams said that by spreading out public holidays, rather than scrapping them, people would enjoy them more.

Business can "lose momentum" when there are too many close together, he added.

But GMB leader Paul Kenny described the report as "utter rubbish", adding: "We could send kids down the mines again too and go back to working six days a week again as well.

"I'm not sure who would be in the shops, the restaurants and sports venues if we didn't have bank holidays."

British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the Easter holidays were good for shops, representing the start of the season for DIY and garden centres.

"We also begin to do outdoor activities, paint the house, and on top of that, if we have good weather then we have barbecues," he said.

"We socialise more and that's good for grocery shopping as well."

The CEBR points to South Korea, which has recovered rapidly from the financial crisis. Although there are more public holidays there, the think tank says different working conditions mean employee work over 500 hours more per year than British workers.

Unions have previously pressed for extra public holidays, pointing out that other European countries have more than the UK's minimum of eight.

Research published last year by Mercer HR suggested there was a statutory minimum of 14 in Spain, 13 in Portugal, 12 in Greece, 11 in France, and nine in Germany and Ireland.

It found US and Australian workers get 10 public holidays, Canadians nine, Chinese 11 and Japanese 15. However, there are regional variations in many of these countries and employment laws differ as to whether workers should be paid for these holidays.

A fortnight ago the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, warned that GDP in the second quarter of this year might shrink owing to the number of bank holidays.

Comparison of public holiday entitlement

Selected countries Minimum number of days

Source: Mercer HR, December 2011

Japan, South Korea


Spain, Malta


Portugal, Austria


Greece, South Africa


France, Italy, Brazil, New Zealand


Australia, Finland, Norway, Belgium, US


Canada, Ireland, Germany


UK, Netherlands



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  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    Did the genius who worked this out take into account that you would have to offset any increase in days worked against the loss of productivity caused by morale tanking, employees suffering mental stress to the point of breakdown or physical exhaustion due to overwork? I'm betting the Sir Humphrey who came up with this hasn't done a real day's work in his life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    Have you tried contacting the The Centre for Economics and Business Research over the Easter Holiday. I did but their contact person was on leave on Friday and today. You see they don't work Bank Holidays or even provide a point of contact.

    They describe themselves as a think tank link between economics and business. I would dispute that - they don't even have a link with reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    This is the inevitable outcome of the current model of international capitalism . As competition intensifies year on year something has to give and it will be the living and working conditions of those who have no other source of income apart from their labour. Why not create more 'flexible' work forces by removing all holiday entitlement and legal protection? Slavery anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    Ho! Ho! Ho!
    No Christmas, No Easter

    Another April Fools Joke?

    We have less Bank Holidays than many other countries
    Its what keeps many people sane!
    Just shows what "Economic Experts" know!

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    i, for one, would welcome no holidays and weekends at all from our new feudal overlords.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    I totally agree...I think as an example the authors of this report from The Centre for Economics and Business Research should lead by example. They should forgo their bank holidays and also work on Sundays. I suggest all these research groups who have enlighten us all with their amazing economic foresight should also say gain further grants to research the subject of Blindingly Obvious Statements

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    What a fine idea.
    And remember, work sets you free!

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    The think tank points to South Korea - which has 14 national holidays. Hmm.

    However, as the majority of people work ridiculous hours 6 days a week, most of which are not exactly 'efficent' I doubt we'd be gaining much.

    The government needs to stop looking to everyne else for quick fix solutions, what works in one country and culture doesn't necessarily work in another

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    South Koreans have the lowest productivity per hour worked of any developed country. That's what happens when you overwork yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Yes, let's work longer hours, so the ones at the top of the heap can have more time to whip up the masses. The harder we're worked, the unhealthier we shall be. The unhealthier we shall be, the deader we shall be all the sooner. Then we won't be a burden on the health system and the pensions. Fantastic idea!!! Why didn't we think of that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    Why don’t we just scrap holidays for the masses and get them working a 10 hour day six days a week as was experienced in the past. That way the workers can sort out the mess created by the political elite and there buddies

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    OK...lets work Bank Holidays then, as a former Soldier, Sailor, Security Guard and Waiter/Barman I usually did anyway. With the latter three I got paid double and even triple rates of pay.
    Think Tank that over!

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Productivity is the key. That does not mean working longer it means working smarter.

    Low productivity is caused by bad management, poor training and low investment in plant and equipment not by bad workers.

    Bad management in the UK is often noted for paying itself far too much.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    Great idea. I suggest cancelling Sundays too, that will boost GDP. Then the masterstroke will be to cancel sleep also - boy will GDP go through the roof, especially if we drop holidays. Then to conquer the World we can start putting kids to work...

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    I bet the think tank didn't work on bank holidays! If this was published on April 1st we would all assume it was a joke (even though it is!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    "We should scrap all bank holidays and make it mandatory to add the same number of days to annual holiday entitlements."

    Would never work, sadly. Greedy bosses would just drop staff holiday entitlements with each new contract.

    BTW folks, despite the stir-it up headline the CEBR has NOT "called for all bank holidays to be scrapped". They have just stated one of the consequences if they were.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Great... are we really thus simple minded to come up with nothing brighter. As it is stated; there are two things infinite... the universe and peoples foolishness. By now we should have concluded that our monetary system is rotten to the core, and that it directs the money to an elite few... 99/1%. Google “The World Monetary Order”.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    Just something else to ad to our enslavement. The answer is NO

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    As the 51st state of the USA the Uk is slowly adopting US working practices in everyway,which are souless.And now with a trial run of shops open all day during the olympics,this is a sign of things to come.We have
    our Greed and selves to blame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    Surely the economy needs days to spend the money too!

    Bank holidays you already see endless queues of shoppers at the retail parks. The big stores must gross a fortune on those days let alone other attractions, people taking long weekends away etc so would also hurt other business waiting for that income.

    We already work more than many in Europe anyway.


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