Bank Holidays in UK

When a bank holiday in UK is on a weekend, what happens? When a bank holiday lands on a Saturday or Sunday, they are always moved to a substitute weekday. Read on.
  • Author: Siva
  • Last updated: April 26, 2022
  • 5 Minutes
bank holidays in UK

Workers in the UK love a bank holiday. For most employees, it equates to another paid day off work, which is, more often than not, welcomed with open arms. 

What many of us don’t know is exactly what a bank holiday is and how it affects our pay packets and leave entitlement. That’s why we’ve come up with this, the ultimate guide to bank holidays — read on to find out everything you need to know.

What Are Bank Holidays?

Bank holidays are national public holidays in the UK. Their name comes from the fact that traditional banks would shut on these days, forcing other businesses to close and leading to a shutdown for much of the workforce. 

These days, bank holidays are more formal in approach and their administration is governed by legislation. While essential services and some retail stores remain open on bank holidays, staff are often granted time off in lieu or offered additional pay for working these days. However, it is worth noting that no UK law states that employers must grant either time off or extra pay for staff members working bank holidays. For details as to how bank holidays affect you, check out your employment contract for information about your personal situation.

When Did Bank Holidays Begin?

The Bank Holidays Act 1871 set up the first four official bank holidays and was brought in by Sir John Lubbock. Lubbock was a politician and banker who wanted to set in law the difference between public holidays and bank holidays. Christmas Day and Good Friday did not feature in this Act, being public holidays already. Over time, other bank holidays were added to the UK’s calendar for various reason.

Who Dictates the Creation of Bank Holidays?

Bank holidays can change over time and may be set up for a variety of reasons. Their creation, however, can only happen in two ways: 

  • Through an Act of Parliament

The Government can set up (or cancel a previously set up) bank holidays through an Act of Parliament. This may be done to celebrate a national event or to allow a day off to workers to mourn a death of disaster.

  • By Royal Proclamation

Another way to create a bank holiday is via proclamation. For example, one-off bank holidays were passed for the Royal Wedding in 1981, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, the Millennium on 31st December 1999, and the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees in 2002 and 2012 respectively.

There have been several proposals made for new bank holidays in the UK in recent years. These include one for St. George’s Day, one for Remembrance Day, and a Community Day in late October which would bridge the gap in bank holidays between August and December.

What Happens When a Bank Holiday Lands on The Weekend?

When a bank holiday lands on a Saturday or Sunday, they are always moved to a substitute weekday. This is often the next available working day (usually a Monday). If two public holidays fall at the weekend, for example Christmas Day and Boxing Day, then both days will move to the next available working days – Monday and Tuesday in this case.  

What is the Difference Between Bank Holidays and Public Holidays?

A public holiday is a day that is declared a holiday by the government due to some cultural or historical significance. A bank holiday is a holiday for bank employees. In the modern world, the two terms are largely interchangeable with both affording a day off work for most employees.

What Are the Current Public and Bank Holidays?

Here is a list of the current UK bank holidays and the dates for which they fall on, if they remain the same every year:

  1. New Year’s Day – January 1st
  2. Good Friday – The first Friday after the first full moon on or after 21st March
  3. Easter Monday – the Monday following Good Friday
  4. Early May Bank Holiday – First Monday in May
  5. Spring bank holiday – Last Monday in May
  6. Summer bank holiday – last Monday in August
  7. Christmas Day – December 25th 
  8. Boxing Day – December 26th 

Does My Holiday Entitlement Include Bank Holidays?

Normally, yes. Most businesses will shut down over bank holidays. Some, however, like shops and call centres, may remain open. This can force them to schedule staff to work on these days. If a workplace does require staff to work during bank holidays, then the 8 days’ entitlement for these bank holidays must be made available for employees to take at other times.

Do I Get Holiday Pay for Bank Holidays?

If you work for a business that does not operate on a bank holiday, then yes, you will receive pay. If your employer requires you to work a bank holiday, then you will receive standard pay and an extra day’s holiday entitlement to take elsewhere in the year. Some workplaces may offer incentivised overtime for bank holidays. This may be in the form of extra pay (usually double time or time and a half) or even more holiday to take at another time of the year.

Can I Refuse to Work on a Bank Holiday?

If an employee is required to work on bank holidays under the terms of their employment contract, the employee cannot refuse to work, even for religious reasons. If you are unsure as to whether you have to work during bank holidays check out your contract of employment.

Are There any Tech Solutions That Can Help Deal With Bank Holidays?

Yes, there are. There are a variety of HR software solutions that allow employers to manage the holiday process of staff, including bank holidays. These can allow businesses to monitor and record holidays and may even allow employees to check their leave allowance and see if they are required to work on bank holidays. 

manage shift planning, timesheet and sta
Free Trial
Track Staff Working Hours, Record Absence & Approve Vacation
  • Clock in and out from browser
  • Time tracking via Phone & Tablet app
  • View & approve time records online
  • Export timesheets to payroll
  • View & approve staff vacation requests
  • Overview of employee availability & absences
14 days free trial. No credit card required
14 days free trial More on Staff Timesheet

In Conclusion

Many employees and employees find the topic of bank holidays confusing. We hope you’ve found this guide informative. For more useful workplace guides, check out the rest of our website.

Written by Siva

I write & describe the value & benefits delivered by Paperhift's rota planning, staff time tracking, and employee payroll management software. Especially useful for Shift Planners, Rota Managers, Team Admins, and HR Teams :-)