Bank Holiday

From Academic Kids

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.

In the United States the "Bank Holiday of 1933" refers to presidential proclamations No. 2039, issued March 6 1933 and No 2040, issued March 9 1933, that temporarily suspended banking transactions by member banks of the Federal Reserve System. Normal banking functions were resumed on March 13, subject to certain restrictions. The first proclamation, it was held, had no authority in law until the passage on March 9 1933, of a ratifying act (12 U.S.C.A. Sect. 95b). Anthony v. bank of Wiggins, 183 Miss.885, 184 So. 626. The present law forbids member banks of the Federal reserve System to transact banking business, except under regulations of the Secretary of the Treasury, during an emergency proclaimed by the President. 12 U.S.C.A. sect. 95. Blacks Law Dictionary Fourth Edition 1951.

The US equivalent of a bank holiday is a Federal Holiday.

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. St Patrick's Day is already a bank holiday in Northern Ireland.


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: Good Friday, 1 May, 1 November, and Christmas Day.

In 1871, the first legislation relating to bank holidays was passed when Sir John Lubbock introduced the Bank Holiday Act 1871 which specified the days as in the following table. Scotland was treated separately because of its separate traditions; for instance, New Year or Hogmanay is a more important holiday there.

Bank Holidays 1871
England, Wales, Ireland Scotland
New Year's Day
Good Friday
Easter Monday
Whit Monday First Monday in May
First Monday in August First Monday in August
Boxing Day Christmas Day

Note that Good Friday and Christmas Day were not specified for England, Wales and Ireland because they were already recognized as common-law holidays there.

In 1903, the Bank Holiday (Ireland) Act added 17 March, Saint Patrick's Day, as a bank holiday for Ireland only.

Current Bank Holidays

It was then not until exactly a century after the 1871 Act that the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971 was passed; it is still in effect today. The table below details the bank holidays specified in the 1971 Act; also listed are two additional bank holidays introduced since 1971, which are deemed bank holidays by the legal device of a royal proclamation every year. This same device is also routinely used to shift bank holidays that would otherwise fall on a weekend. (This is why diaries often have to resort to the phrase 'subject to confirmation' since theoretically there might not be such a royal proclamation.) The two additional days now routinely added since 1971 are New Year's Day and the Early May Bank Holiday (except in Scotland, where they are the Spring Bank Holiday and Boxing Day).

Current Bank Holidays
1 JanuaryNew Year's Day
2 January(Scotland only)
17 MarchSt Patrick's Day (Northern Ireland only)
The Friday before Easter SundayGood Friday
The day after Easter SundayEaster Monday (not Scotland)
Usually first Monday in May¹May Bank Holiday
Last Monday in MaySpring Bank Holiday (Whitsun)
12 JulyBattle of the Boyne - Orangemen's Day (Northern Ireland only)
First Monday in AugustSummer Bank Holiday (Scotland only)
Last Monday in AugustSummer Bank Holiday (not Scotland)
25 DecemberChristmas Day
26 December or 27 December²Boxing Day
  1. Recent practice by Conservative governments has been for the May Bank Holiday to be on 8 May in years where it would otherwise fall on 1 May, presumably out of a desire to avoid the socialist connotations of International Workers' Day. This last happened in 1995.
  2. Strictly, Boxing Day is the first weekday after Christmas, so it cannot fall on a Sunday. If Christmas Day is a Saturday, then Boxing Day is the following Monday, although in practice, this nicety is often ignored since both the Monday and the Tuesday will be public holidays in addition to the normal weekend.


A number of peculiarities apply to bank holidays in Scotland. Firstly, it is noteworthy (and a considerable surprise to many) that Good Friday is not a bank holiday there, though Easter Monday is observed by many. Also, although they share the same name, the Summer Bank Holiday falls on the first Monday of August in Scotland and the last elsewhere in the UK.

More importantly, bank holidays have never assumed the same importance in Scotland. Whereas they have effectively become public holidays elsewhere in the UK, in Scotland there remains a tradition of public holidays based on local tradition and determined by local authorities. To complicate matters further, in 1996, Scottish banks made the business decision to harmonize their own holidays with the rest of the UK. Thus bank holidays in Scotland are neither public holidays nor the days on which banks are closed!

See also

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