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

Related Stories

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



More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1583.

    the public should know who makes up the think tanks and whether they have a vested interest in the proposals and would stand to gain from the taxpayer if they were implemented.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1582.

    If you work weekends, it is almost impossible to 'choose' your time off; your time off never coincides with your family and friends so you hardly ever get to spend time with them. The phrase 'work/life balance', a favourite of HR people, is merely a box ticking exercise. Large companies don't give a stuff about their workers' lives, they are merely unit of resource. I know, I was there!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1581.

    The reason for loss of momentum is shortage of work not excess of public holidays.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1580.

    What a load of nonsense from a government obsessed with enslaving its own people - offering them as free labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1579.

    The Centre for Economics and Business Research seems to have fundamentally misunderstood the problem.

    Our current economic problems are due to a lack of demand which creates overcapacity in the economy. This is why we have high unemployment or businesses running 4 day weeks. Creating an extra 8 working days by scrapping the Bank Holidays would only exacerbate the current problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1578.

    The CEBR need to take a step back from their dangerous game of economic and market worship and consider the human implications of increases in workload (which this measure would set a precedent for) such as the impact on morale, health and commitment.

    All of these have an undesirable effect on efficiency and productivity making scrapping BHs a false economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1577.

    More spread out, yes, but not less! Sheer hours of attendance at work are given far too much importance as it is. Work smart, not long hours, that is genuine 'working hard'... just make sure you play hard as well.

    How about the first Monday of every month rather than marking religious or political holidays that not all of us celebrate?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1576.

    To those supporting scrapping bank holidays and upping entitlement:

    1. "John's on holiday today, do you'll have to do his work as well as your own.

    2. "We're in a bit of a downturn and may have to lose some staff. On an entirely separate note, Mike, any chance you might consider work a couple of days extra? Entirely voluntary, of course."

  • rate this

    Comment number 1575.

    The same logic can be used to justify getting rid of weekend days (£2.3 bln a pop times 104 days), doubling the number of hours worked per-day to 16h/day (£2.3 x 365) or even triple them to 24h/day (£2.3 bln x 730)

    Maybe the original argument doesn't take into account the detail that tired people do negative work, not positive work?

    This country need to learn it's best to work SMART, not hard

  • rate this

    Comment number 1574.

    I wonder how much sleeping effects the economy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1573.

    1562. SPOOTA
    Don't give them ideas, they'll probably drop the top rate to 40%. You can never have enough Bollinger you know...

  • rate this

    Comment number 1572.

    Those who suggest that the 8 days just be added to annual leave need to think about the real World. Annual leave can only be taken when the employer allows. Bank Holidays have largely gone the same way, but at least on a couple of times a year you can get all of the family together for a late night party and a sleep over. Choice of time off has largely gone by the board today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1571.

    The vision of the future is to work more hours?

    For whose sake, CEBR? A statistical total, which maybe will make other countries invest in our "success"?
    How much does overwork cost the economy in terms of stress and low production? Write on that,please

    People tend to work best when they enjoy their jobs and feel valued, not trapped. People have families. People are NOT robots.


  • rate this

    Comment number 1570.

    What a load of rubbish, the work gets done in four days instead of five. It's typical blame the workers never management, when managers make mistakes and companies loose money the cry is sack the workers not the manager an example of this is the banks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1569.

    The CEBR spend too much time playing sim city. Real people aren't little dots on a computer screen increasing the countries highest score.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1568.

    7 Minutes ago
    That scheme has already been done - back to back houses, close to the cotton and wool factories in the 19th century. Housing was built for the mineworkers - whoops, no mines left to work in now! The UK is the worst place to be as a child growing up - cannot be with parents on bank holidays and the work ethic gets twisted, cleverly by the dominant ruling class.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1567.

    RE: 1552. troy135
    My shop (a supermarket chain) is at the similar policy. However, the store manager purposely disapproved our holiday plans. She “decided” when we can take days off.

    Very sad! In recession, those people in power can do anything they like to us. We are so powerless and small.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1566.

    Where do they get these statistics from? My goodness, I would suggest that the CEBR and the Bank of England be declared the perfect whinging whatever!!!!
    Typical economists.... Everything is a problem for them and there is not one single theory of theirs that explains anything!!! Ah, the famous interests!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1565.

    Its not as if we work 9 till 5 and take our full holiday.

    As a salaried worker I've calculated my real hourly rate (awful), now these guys want to reduce it further?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1564.

    I notice a number of people have claimed this is report is an attempt to get rid of May bank holiday. Since the workers day is May 1st and this year and most other years the Early May Bank Holiday is not on that date it is just a coincidence that the 2 dates are close. It is more to do with Morris dancing, maypoles and other British traditions. Also is one of the best timed unlike Easter.


Page 13 of 92


More Business stories



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.