Trade Union Congress backs campaign to make Jubilee Bank Holiday permanent, despite likely financial hit to UK economy

Written by Jack Lister

What do Bear Grylls, Deborah Meaden and the Archbishop of Canterbury all have in common? They all support the idea of an extra annual bank holiday, termed the “Thank Holiday” by Together organisation, which would boost the annual number of UK bank holidays from eight to nine.

In life there are few certainties… death, taxes and bank holidays are ones which spring to mind. It’s impossible to change death and taxes, but what about the number of bank holidays? We’ve got an extra one on June 3 because of the Jubilee Celebrations but – having survived a pandemic – what benefits or costs would a regular additional day off bring?

The European average for the number of public holidays per year is 12, however the UK population only receives eight each year – the second lowest in the world.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC), which represents five million workers across the UK, is calling for four extra bank holidays per year in order to match our European counterparts.

Policy Officer for TUC, Afzal Rahman, said: “I don’t think this is a pipe dream, I think this is a modest ask for one extra bank holiday, we’ve been calling for four.”

Afzal Rahman

According to data from ONS, the average UK employee works an average of 36.5 hours per week. Within the EU, the Netherlands are reported to have the best work-life balance, working an average of 30.5 hours per week and receiving 11 bank holidays per year.

“In the UK we have long working hours which can cause health problems. It leads to stress, it leads to cardiovascular problems, vasco-skeletal problems. Any additional time off helps to prevent those things.”

Afzal added that the issue should be high up on the government’s agenda, and said: “We’ve all gone through a tough and difficult time, whether you were on the frontline, or you shut down your business or were furloughed. Workers have gone through a lot and have been responsible for making sure that we come out the other side of this.”

“Any reasonable government minister would agree with that. We hope that we can impress upon them that this is something important.”

Employers are likely to consider the impact the change could make towards productivity and profits of their business, especially given the consequences of the pandemic.

Research from professional services firm, PwC, has revealed the UK Government may have overestimated the cost of an extra bank holiday.

It showed the net cost of an extra bank holiday to the UK economy is estimated to be £831 million, with the cost being lowered to £736 million if the bank holiday fell on a Friday, given the fewer amount of hours worked on this day on average.

The proposed additional bank holiday is estimated to contribute £366 million to the hospitality and retail sectors, industries which were among the worst affected by the pandemic.

But PwC’s research stated: “There is strong suggestive evidence that the relatively small macroeconomic cost could be partially or wholly offset by the wellbeing boost a nation’s economy can get from an extra holiday.”

The lead research organisation on the impact to the UK economy is the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

CEBR has previously estimated the change to the UK economy during a 2019 bank holiday resulted in a £220 million uplift in the hospitality and retail sector. But industries such as agriculture, manufacturing and construction are more likely to suffer a loss of output, given their lack of flexible working arrangements.

 Despite pre-pandemic optimism for bank holiday spending, spokesperson for CEBR, Pushpin Singh, said: “With an extra bank holiday you’re going to be cramming in a week’s worth of time into 20% less time.

“That being said, with flexible working arrangements, this impact will be less pronounced than it was 10 years ago.”

A recent YouGov poll which surveyed 5,130 British adults revealed 54% would support the Jubilee Bank Holiday being made permanent.

Source: YouGov.com

The TUC aims to continue its campaign for the Jubilee Bank Holiday to be a permanent national bank holiday from June 2023 onwards.

Written by Jack Lister

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