Much like in any country, the UK bank holidays commemorate special events. These can have either national or religious significance.
Though some of them are international, others are unique to the UK. If you plan to travel there, you should have at least a basic idea about these holidays. The last thing you want to do is go shopping only to find out that everything is closed.
Understanding these bank holidays is also important if you plan to work in the UK. Since most of these dates are fixed, you can plan your vacation months in advance. Moreover, you also have financial implications to consider. When you know how many holidays there will be in the following years, you can get a clearer idea of how much you’ll make. This is important since you won’t necessarily get paid for these days off.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to all current UK bank holidays. We also include a detailed overview of the differences between the UK regions.
What does a bank holiday mean?
The term ‘bank holiday’ is unique to the United Kingdom. It simply refers to the fact that banks don’t operate on these holidays. Many businesses and institutions depend on banks to carry out their transactions. When they noticed they can’t run properly on these days, they also began closing down on bank holidays.
Though many people think banks and public holidays are one and the same, this isn’t entirely true. A bank holiday stems from statute law while a public holiday comes from common law.
Bank holidays came to be thanks to Sir John Lubbock, a banker, writer, and politician. He proposed Bank Holiday Bill which was ultimately accepted. This allowed him to establish the first bank holiday ever.
Though these days originally targeted banks, other institutions adapted to these days off.
While each part of the UK celebrates its own bank holidays, these are the 7 ones they have in common:
- New Year’s Day – 1st of January
- Good Friday – Friday before Easter Sunday
- Early May Bank Day – First Monday in May
- Spring Bank Day – Last Monday in May
- Summer Bank Holiday – First Monday in August in some parts of the UK and the last Monday in August for others
- Christmas Day – 25th of December
- Boxing Day – 26th of December
The UK has a special system in place should a bank holiday fall on a weekend. When this happens, it automatically applies on the following Monday instead. If you ever consider moving to the UK, remember this handy perk.
What the UK bank holidays look like in each region
Though part of the same country, each UK region has the right to add or remove some of the bank holidays. Apart from the 7 shared bank holidays, each region has a few additional ones.
8 important UK bank holidays observed in England and Wales
Unless the Royal Proclamation dictates otherwise, England and Wales celebrate 8 bank holidays yearly. The UK often issues special bank holidays that only happen in a single year.
In 2022, this occurred twice. The 3rd of June was declared a bank holiday as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. The second special bank holiday was issued on September 19, so that UK citizens could observe the Queen’s funeral.
England and Wales celebrate the following 8 bank holidays:
- New Year’s Day
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- Early May Bank Holiday
- Spring Bank Day
- Summer Bank Holiday
- Christmas Day
- Boxing Day
One of the wide-known facts about the UK is that each region has its patron saints. You’ve likely heard about Saint Patrick’s Day. But what about the saints of England and Wales? Though Saint George’s Day and Saint David’s Day exist, they don’t count as bank holidays.
9 major bank holidays celebrated in Scotland
Local authorities in Scotland can issue public holidays. They can also substitute national public holidays with local ones. Some of these public holidays eventually become bank holidays.
Scottish businesses have no obligation to close on bank holidays, but they can choose to do so. Scotland also stands out from other regions by how it treats Easter Monday and New Year’s Eve.
This region doesn’t recognize Easter Monday as a public holiday and most businesses thus operate normally. On the other hand, New Year’s Day lasts for two days in this region.
Apart from the standard UK bank holidays, the Scottish also celebrate Saint Andrew’s Day as a bank holiday since 2006. Saint Andrew is considered a patron saint of Scotland. He died in 60 AD when the Romans crucified him. This bank holiday falls on the 30th of November, but businesses can choose to function normally if they want to.
10 popular bank holidays in Northern Ireland
Of all the UK regions, Northern Ireland comes out on top in terms of the bank holiday count. People of this region celebrate three bank holidays in addition to the seven general ones.
If a bank holiday would fall on a weekend in Northern Ireland, it’s instead moved to another workday. In most cases, this is the Monday after the weekend.
The first notable bank holiday is Saint Patrick’s Day. This spring bank holiday serves as a commemoration of the arrival of Christianity. This famous patron saint’s day falls on the 17th of march each year.
Another important Irish holiday is the commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne. This bank holiday falls on the 12th of July. During this time, the Irish remember Prince William Orange who defeated King James VII of Scotland. Thanks to this victory, he became King William III.
Unlike in Scotland, the people celebrate Easter Monday as a bank holiday in Northern Ireland.
The region will also witness a special bank holiday next summer when King Charles III goes through his coronation ceremony.
Are the UK bank holidays statutory or not?
It ultimately comes down to your job type. However, most aren’t obligatory. It usually falls to your employer to decide if you have to work through a bank holiday.
Though working through the holidays can be a nuisance for some people, it has even greater implications. Not many people realize that bank holidays might contribute to your annual leave pay.
In most cases, the Working Time Regulations consider bank holidays as standard workdays. This means your employer isn’t obliged to pay you on bank holidays. Though some might choose to do so, it’s their own decision.
If the business where you work doesn’t operate on a bank holiday, your boss might add the day to your annual leave. This matter is very situational and depends on your contract agreements.
But whether they contribute to your annual leave or not, your employer might deduct from it based on how many bank holidays there were in the year. If they aren’t part of your annual leave, it’s up to your employer to decide whether you get paid.
The only way to be sure is to check your contract agreements.
FAQ about the UK bank holidays
What are UK bank holidays?
The government of the United Kingdom designates some days as public holidays. These are days when many individuals take off work and the majority of businesses are closed.
How many bank holidays are there in the UK?
In the UK, there are eight bank holidays each year. These consist of Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May Day, Spring Bank Holiday, and Summer Bank Holiday.
When are the bank holidays in the UK?
The UK’s bank holidays aren’t always on the same day, but they often fall on a Monday or a Friday. While Christmas Day and Boxing Day are usually observed on December 25 and 26, respectively, New Year’s Day is always observed on January 1.
Are bank holidays in the UK the same across all regions?
All of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have the same bank holiday dates. There might be some regional variances in how they are observed, though.
What happens if a bank holiday falls on a weekend?
If a bank holiday falls on a weekend, it will be observed on the Monday or Tuesday after that. This is a “substitute day,” so to speak.
Are businesses required to close on bank holidays?
Although it is not necessary, many businesses choose to close on bank holidays. For employees who work on bank holidays, certain companies may offer extra compensation or holiday time.
Do employees get paid extra for working on bank holidays?
On bank holidays, employers are not compelled to pay more, but they are free to do so. Some companies provide additional compensation or time off in place of working on a bank holiday.
Are public transport services available on bank holidays?
On bank holidays, public transportation services could be scaled back, especially in more remote locations. On bank holidays, however, public transportation is frequently offered in big cities.
Are shops and supermarkets open on bank holidays?
On bank holidays, many stores and supermarkets are open, albeit with shortened hours. Smaller businesses might decide to close their doors today.
What are some popular activities or events during bank holidays in the UK?
Outdoor activities like picnics, barbecues, and excursions to the beach or the countryside are common activities and events on bank holidays in the UK. In many locations, bank holidays are also celebrated with festivals or parades, like the Notting Hill Carnival in August. In addition, many families take advantage of bank holidays to travel or spend quality time together.
Final Thoughts on UK bank holidays
While most of the bank holidays remain the same across the UK, some regions offer more days off than others. It only makes sense since the UK is made up of four countries, each with its own culture.
The prize for most bank holidays in the UK goes to Northern Ireland while England and Wales both get to share the last place.
If you liked this article about UK bank holidays, you should check out this one on how many working days are in a year.
You should also check out these other articles of ours about public holidays in France, holidays in Australia, US Federal holidays, Canadian holidays, New Zealand holidays, and also public holidays in Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.