Martin Luther King Day – Why do we have paid-for holidays?


As millions of Americans enjoy a day off today for Martin Luther King Day, the question arises as to why do employees still get the traditional paid-for holidays each year; be they federal holidays or bank holidays here in the UK?

In 2012 the The Centre for Economics and Business Research said each bank holiday costs the United Kingdom economy in the region of £2 billion – so why do we still stick to the traditional bank holidays dating back to the 1800s?

Bank holidays were initially recognised in the UK in 1871 in an Act of Parliament by Sir John Lubbock, a banker who wanted to close the banks to enjoy his beloved cricket matches and allow works four days off each year. They became referred to as ‘St Lubbock’s Days’ – Easter Monday, the first Monday in August, Whit Monday, and Boxing Day. Over the years, these holidays have changed slightly, most notably with the inclusion of May day and Late Spring bank holiday.
There have been calls to update our bank holidays, and move away from celebrating the more archaic and, ‘pagan-based’ holidays such as May Day, and instead focus on saints days such as St. George’s Day or have a day off for the Queen’s Birthday to align with President’s Day in the US, but surely that’s what makes the UK ‘quirky’ to other nationalities looking on? If we got rid of May Day, where would all the Morris dancers in UK villages go? Or what would happen to the Notting Hill Carnival if we decided to change the August bank holiday for a random day off in June?

But whatever happens, thanks, Sir Lubbock for deciding to close the banks back in 1871! Enjoy your day off, USA – and if you need some reassurance why it’s great to take a long weekend (especially if you’re running or part of a small business)…

Bank holidays in the UK this year…

3 April Friday Good Friday
6 April Monday Easter Monday
4 May Monday Early May bank holiday
25 May Monday Spring bank holiday
31 August Monday Summer bank holiday
25 December Friday Christmas Day
28 December Monday Boxing Day (substitute day)



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