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 803.

    I am disgusted with this suggestion. It seems to me that the hard working people of the UK (who can be bothered to get up and go to work) are always the ones who have to pay (be it with our time or our money). We already work long hours and stress and anxiety are on the increase! If we can afford to host the olympics, we can afford to keep our bank holidays!

  • rate this

    Comment number 802.

    Anyone for coffee? Have a break. Have a [T]h[I]n[K] [T][A]n[K]

  • rate this

    Comment number 801.

    This is all about money, just the same as stpping the freedom pass. what difference these action would make to the country is small. so please leave well alone, these idiots look at thing that people enjoy or use to have a better standard living so hands off.
    Tony Adams

  • rate this

    Comment number 800.

    Another crackpot idea from a so-called "think-tank" full of people who don't inhabit the real world - a bit like the millionaire's front bench of this Government. It was greedy reckless BANKERS who put our economy into a nose dive, not hard working ordinary people who cherish these long weekend breaks. We work some of the longest hours in Europe - so we've earned our Bank Holidays, thanks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 799.

    for me, its all about flexible working. My company recently turfed us out of the office for 1 day and I have to say it was a huge success. Remote working is the future. Bank Holidays (all be it fewer than the rest of europe we receive) are key to keeping a work/life balance. You dont live to work! if the economy was tip top this article would not be posted. talking bobbins....

  • rate this

    Comment number 798.

    The question is who would benefit most from the extra 19bn in the economy. My suspicion is this would do little for people’s job security or salaries, and much for big corporate profits and executive bonuses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 797.

    How utterly preposterous this article is! Its a bit like the ones you see about how much the snow costs the UK economy. They suggest that the economy is not an organic or dynamic entity. True, all that economic activity is lost on a bank holiday or during heavy snow, but the output the following week is slightly higher than it would have been whilst people catch up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 796.

    what a daft idea, Businesses depend on bank holidays to boost there income. If everyday was the same ,businesss would go out of business. I work in the community so bank holidays is a normal working day. Why not go the full all hog, and let every day be a normal working day( it is getting that way ) people need to have days off to relax and spend the little money they have

  • rate this

    Comment number 795.

    Its funny how people seem to forget the people that do work bank holidays. Spare a thought for the people who are expected to work. This wont make any difference to them. People always expect shops to be open, maybe if people didnt shop on bank holidays then they might not have to open. It would then be fair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 794.

    Bet I can forcast that Mr Douglas McWilliam head of this so called Think Tank, former advisor to the CBI continues to have his bank holidays. Marvellous how people who don't have to works nights, weekends and shifts want those that do, to work them for next to nowt! This is the first Coalition attack to make sure that firms don't have to honour the Queens Jubilee. Hols for Rich! Work for the poor!

  • rate this

    Comment number 793.

    Let’s do some maths. Even if the CEBR estimate of £19 billion GDP foregone per year is correct, this equates roughly to £35 to £40 per person or £80 to £90 per household per bank holiday. Seems quite good value to me - particularly as the majority of any increase in GDP would be in the form of higher business profits and not wages and salaries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 792.

    The thing is, the joyless souls who came up with this don't have real friends. The nearest they have is colleagues and acquaintances.

  • rate this

    Comment number 791.

    Considering the mess the Banks have the whole planet in by pretending there is about 4 times more money in the world than there is, A mistake that can only be put down to downright greed and dishonesty, or tiredness.... I think they should take more holidays. Maybe even some Bank redundancies...

  • rate this

    Comment number 790.

    Holidays are essential to mental well-being, not just the day itself, but the looking forward to it and the planning of it. Without scheduled breaks, there would be more breakdowns, more sick days, more demands on the NHS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 789.

    There is a gradual attempt to move the UK towards US style working patterns - with a maximum of 2 weeks holiday a year.

    Sack all pointless consultants and blue sky thinkers

  • rate this

    Comment number 788.

    One the whole the only people who benefit from bank holidays are those in 'banks' and other offices, for most other places its business as usual, some if they are lucky will get double pay and a day in lieu others won't. I cannot see those who do get bank holidays off letting them go and so lose a day where they get paid for not working.

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    Does anyone else get bored being off for a week over Xmas.
    I'd rather have a week off in the Summer when the weathers better and you don't feel obliged to spend time with Relatives eating sweets and watching the clock crawl round.

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    if thats what the gov'nt want too do they will have to give up their big time off work in the summer hols?. because the english have the least bank holidays than any euro country and less holiday time off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    Scrap Trident first if you really care about the economy.

    And don't say we need Trident either. Because we don't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    No doubt Mr McWilliams and his "Executive" mates think that weeks off skiing with his family and kids "Jemima and Tristan", Golf days spent "networking" and summers in the south of France are beneficial to the economy.

    There is a new breed of arrogant, selfish. greedy and heartless "businessmen" living amongst us all.


Page 52 of 92


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