In the United Kingdom, public holidays are days on which most businesses and non-essential services are closed. Many retail businesses (especially the larger ones) do open on some of the public holidays. There are restrictions on trading on Sundays and Christmas Day in England and Wales and on New Year's Day and Christmas Day in Scotland. Public holidays defined by statute are called bank holidays, but this term can also be used to include common law holidays, which are held by convention. The term "public holidays" can refer exclusively to common law holidays.[1]

There is no automatic right to time off on these days,[2] but banks close and the majority of the working population is granted time off work or extra pay for working on these days, depending on their contracts.

There are eight bank holidays a year in England and Wales, nine in Scotland and ten in Northern Ireland. Additional days have been allocated for special events, such as royal weddings and jubilees. There are seven bank holidays common to all jurisdictions: New Year's Day, Good Friday, the early May bank holiday, the Spring bank holiday, the Summer bank holiday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Easter Monday is a bank holiday in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but not in Scotland. In Northern Ireland, St Patrick's Day and Orangemen's Day are also bank holidays. In Scotland, 2 January and St Andrew's Day are bank holidays. The Summer bank holiday varies according to jurisdiction: in Scotland, it is on the first Monday in August, and in the rest of the United Kingdom, it is on the last Monday in August.


In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Good Friday and Christmas Day are common law holidays, having been customary holidays since time immemorial.[3]

The first official bank holidays were named in the Bank Holidays Act 1871, introduced by Liberal politician and banker Sir John Lubbock.[3] Under the Act, "no person was compelled to make any payment or to do any act upon a bank holiday which he would not be compelled to do or make on Christmas Day or Good Friday, and the making of a payment or the doing of an act on the following day was equivalent to doing it on the holiday".[4] People were so grateful that some called the first bank holidays St Lubbock's Days for a while.[5]

England, Wales and Ireland
Bank holidays 1875
Easter Monday
Whit Monday
First Monday in August
26 December (or 27th if 26th is a Sunday)
Bank holidays 1871
New Year's Day
Good Friday
First Monday in May
First Monday in August
Christmas Day

The Act did not include Good Friday and Christmas Day as bank holidays in England, Wales, or Ireland because they were already recognised as common law holidays.[3]

In 1903, the Bank Holiday (Ireland) Act added 17 March, Saint Patrick's Day, as a bank holiday in Ireland only.[6] New Year's Day did not become a bank holiday in England until 1 January 1974. Boxing Day did not become a bank holiday in Scotland until 1974.

Starting in 1965, experimentally, the August bank holiday weekend was observed at the end of August "to give a lead in extending British holidays over a longer summer period".[7] Each year's date was announced in Parliament on an ad hoc basis, to the despair of the calendar and diary publishing trade.[8] The rule seems to have been to select the weekend of the last Saturday in August, so that in 1968[9] and 1969[10] Bank Holiday Monday actually fell in September.

A century after the 1871 Act, the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, which currently regulates bank holidays in the UK, was passed.[11] The majority of the current bank holidays were specified in the 1971 Act: however New Year's Day and May Day were not introduced throughout the whole of the UK until 1974 and 1978 respectively.[12] The date of the August bank holiday was changed from the first Monday in August to the last Monday in August in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (but not in Scotland), and the Whitsun bank holiday (Whit Monday) was replaced by the Late Spring Bank Holiday, fixed as the last Monday in May.[13] From 1978, the final Monday of May in Scotland (a statutory holiday in the rest of the UK) and the first Monday in May in the rest of the UK (a statutory holiday in Scotland) have been proclaimed as bank holidays.[14]

In January 2007, the St Andrew's Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007 was given royal assent, making 30 November (or the following Monday if 30 November falls on a weekend) a bank holiday in Scotland.[15]


There are calls for extra public holidays on the patron saints' days in England (for St. George's Day), and Wales (for St. David's Day). For example, in 2018 the Labour Party announced it would make those days bank holidays if elected.[16] The same year, an online petition to the Prime Minister as to Wales received 3,577 signatures.[17]

In 2009, it was reported that St Piran's Day (patron saint of Cornwall) on 5 March is already given as an unofficial day off to many government and other workers in the county.[18][19] It is suggested that a move from the May bank holiday to a St Piran's Day bank holiday in Cornwall would benefit the Cornish economy by £20–35 million.[20]

The number of holidays in the UK is relatively small compared to many other European countries. However, direct comparison is inaccurate since the 'substitute day' scheme of deferment does not apply in most European countries, where holidays that coincide with a weekend (29% of fixed-date holidays) are "lost".[citation needed] In fact, the average number of non-weekend holidays in such countries is only marginally higher (and in some cases lower) than the UK.[citation needed] Worth mentioning is that public holidays in Europe which fall on Thursday or Tuesday typically become "puente" or "bridge" four-day or even six-day extended holiday weekends as people tend to use one or two days from their holiday entitlement to take off Monday and/or Friday.[citation needed]

After the election of the coalition government in May 2010, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport launched a pre-consultation in 2011 which included the suggestion of moving the May Day Bank Holiday to October, to be a "UK Day" or "Trafalgar Day" (21 October) or to St David's Day and St George's Day.[21]

Legal basis

Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971
Long titleAn Act to make new provision in place of the Bank Holidays Act 1871, to confer power to suspend financial and other dealings on bank holidays or other days, and to amend the law relating to bills of exchange and promissory notes with reference to the maturity of bills and notes and other matters affected by the closing of banks on Saturdays, and for purposes connected therewith.
Citation1971 Chapter 80
Status: Amended
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

Bank holidays are established in several ways:

Royal proclamation is also used to move bank holidays that would otherwise fall on a weekend and to create extra one-off bank holidays for special occasions.[23] The Act does not provide for a bank holiday to be suppressed by royal proclamation without appointing another day in its place.[24] In this way, public holidays are not "lost" in years when they coincide with weekends. These deferred bank holiday days are termed a "bank holiday in lieu" of the typical anniversary date. In the legislation they are known as "substitute days". The movement of the St Andrew's Day Scottish holiday to the nearest Monday when 30 November is a weekend day is statutory and does not require a proclamation.[25] Bank holidays falling on a weekend are always moved to a later date, not an earlier one.[26][27][28]

Workers' rights

See also: UK labour law

Although there is no statutory right for workers to take paid leave on bank holidays, where paid leave is given (either because the business is closed or for other reasons), the bank holiday can count towards the minimum statutory holiday entitlement. Likewise, if people are required to work on a bank holiday, there is no statutory right to an enhanced pay rate nor to a day off in lieu, although many employers do give either or both. Any rights in this respect depend on the person's contract of employment.[29] The statutory minimum paid holidays is 28 days (or 5.6 weeks) a year under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (including any bank holidays or public holidays that are taken).[30]

Dates in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales

Date Occasion Type Notes Region
England and Wales Northern Ireland
1/2/3 January New Year's Day Proclaimed Falls on 1 January unless this is a Saturday or Sunday.[26][27][28] 1 January was not a statutory holiday before 1974. In a year in which it doesn't occur on 1 January, it can be referred to (as for all such dates in lieu) in various ways, such as "Monday bank holiday instead of New Year's Day". For audiences familiar with British holidays, such as in many British diary series, it may be marked "New Year's Day holiday" with or without "(in lieu)" afterwards. Falls on 3 January in 2022. Yes Yes
17/18/19 March St. Patrick's Day Statutory or proclaimed Northern Ireland only. 17 March by statute if this is not a Sunday. 18 March by statute if this is a Monday. 19 March by proclamation if this is a Monday. Falls on 17 March in 2022. No Yes
Variable Good Friday Common law[26][27][28] Falls on 15 April in 2022. Yes Yes
Variable Easter Monday Statutory Statutory bank holiday from 1871, defined by name.[31] Falls on 18 April in 2022. Yes Yes
First Monday in May Early May bank holiday Proclaimed From 1978, by Royal Proclamation.[26][27][28] Falls on 2 May in 2022. Yes Yes
Last Monday in May Spring Bank Holiday or Summer Half-Term Monday Statutory Statutory bank holiday from 1971,[31] following a trial period from 1965 to 1971. Replaced Whit Monday, 50 days after Easter Day, which had been a public holiday since 1871. Most schools fix a minimum of a week's break to coincide, giving the alternative name.[31][32][33] The legislation does not specify a name for the holiday, merely when it occurs. It normally falls on the last Monday in May, but in 2002, 2012 and 2022 it was moved a few days into June and was followed by an extra bank holiday, in order to create a four-day jubilee weekend in celebration of Elizabeth II's 50, 60 and 70 years of reign. Yes Yes
12/13/14 July Battle of the Boyne (Orangeman's Day)[34] Proclaimed Northern Ireland only. Falls on 12 July unless this is a Saturday or Sunday. Falls on 12 July in 2022. No Yes
Last Monday in August Late Summer Bank Holiday Statutory Statutory bank holiday from 1971,[31] following a trial period from 1965 to 1971. Replaced the first Monday in August (formerly commonly known as "August Bank Holiday") which had been in use from 1871.[28][31] The legislation does not specify a name for the holiday, merely when it occurs. Falls on 29 August in 2022. Yes Yes
25 December Christmas Day Common law[26][27][28] Yes Yes
26 December/None Boxing Day Statutory Statutory bank holiday from 1871. Legislation does not name the holiday, but states that it falls on "26th December, if it be not a Sunday."[31] Public Holiday in 2022. Yes Yes
27 December/None Not named Statutory Only in a year in which 25 December is either on a Saturday or Sunday.[31] This has the effect of adding an extra holiday when 25 December falls on a Sunday. Will occur on Tuesday 27 December in 2022. Yes Yes
28 December/None Not named Proclaimed This is an extra holiday added when either 25 or 26 December falls on a Saturday. Yes Yes
Total holidays 8 10


In 1995 the early May bank holiday was moved to 8 May for the 50th anniversary of VE Day
In 1995 the early May bank holiday was moved to 8 May for the 50th anniversary of VE Day

Dates in Scotland

Main article: Public and bank holidays in Scotland

National bank holidays

Date Occasion Type Notes
1/2/4 January New Year's Day Statutory or proclaimed 1 January by statute when this is not a Saturday or Sunday. 2 January by statute when this is a Monday. 4 January by proclamation when this is a Tuesday.
2/3/4 January New Year Holiday Statutory or proclaimed 2 January by statute when this is not a Saturday or Sunday. 3 January by statute when this a Monday, or by proclamation when this is a Tuesday. 4 January by proclamation when this is a Monday.
Variable Good Friday Statutory
First Monday in May May Day Statutory
Last Monday in May Spring Holiday Proclaimed
First Monday in August Summer Holiday Statutory The Summer bank holiday remains on its original date in Scotland. Falls on 1 August in 2022.
30 November St. Andrew's Day Statutory Unlike other bank holidays it must be taken by workers in lieu of another bank holiday.[43]
25 December Christmas Day Statutory The observance of Christmas Day was abolished by an Act of Parliament in 1640.[44][45][46] It was included in the schedule to the Bank Holidays Act 1871.[47]
26/27/28 December Boxing Day Proclaimed Boxing Day (26 December) became a public holiday in Scotland in 1974. See also Christmas in Scotland.


Local holidays

Local holidays are determined by local authorities across Scotland. Some of these may be taken in lieu of statutory holidays while others may be additional holidays, although many companies, including Royal Mail, do not follow all the holidays listed below, and many swap between English and local holidays.

Since Easter 1996 the Scottish clearing banks have harmonised the days on which they are closed with those in England and Wales and are therefore closed on Easter Monday and the last Monday in August (rather than the first). This has resulted in a number of local authorities creating a public holiday on Easter Monday. Previously Easter Monday had not been a public holiday in Scotland.

There have been protests about banks opening on 2 January since this decision was taken.[citation needed] This has resulted in many banks now providing only a limited service on 2 January, with most members of staff still entitled to the holiday.

Date Name Major towns/cities (not an exhaustive list)
1 January New Year's Day all
2 January
Wednesday after last Tuesday in January Day after Up Helly Aa fire festival Shetland
First Monday in February Winter Holiday Inverness
First Monday in March Inverness
Last Monday in March Lochaber
Easter holiday (variable) Good Friday Ayr, Dumfries and Galloway, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Inverclyde, Kilmarnock, Paisley, Stirling, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire
Easter Monday Ayr, Edinburgh, Falkirk, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde, Kilmarnock, North Lanarkshire, Paisley, Stirling, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire
First Monday in April Spring Holiday Carnoustie and Monifieth area, Dundee, Fife, Scottish Borders, Inverness, Perth
Second Monday in April Angus, except Carnoustie and Monifieth area, Elgin
Third Monday in April, or preceding week if would otherwise coincide with Easter Monday Edinburgh
Monday in April; date varies from year to year Aberdeen
Last Monday in April Inverclyde
First Monday in May Labour Day or Early May Bank Holiday all
Tuesday after first Monday in May Victoria Day (*)/Spring Holiday Clydebank, Stirling
Last Monday strictly before 24 May Edinburgh*
Fourth Monday in May Perth*
Last Monday in May Ayr, Dundee*, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Paisley*, South Lanarkshire
First Monday in June Galashiels, Inverclyde, Fife
Tuesday after second Thursday in June Linlithgow Marches Linlithgow
Second Thursday in June Lanimer Day Lanark area only
Last Monday in June Fair Holiday Elgin
Saturday preceding first Monday in July Edinburgh
First Monday in July Falkirk, Inverness
First Friday in July Braw Lads Gathering Galashiels
Second Monday in July Fair Holiday Aberdeen
Third Monday in July Arbroath, Fife, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire except Lanark
Fourth Friday in July Scottish Borders
Last Monday in July Dundee
First Monday in August Paisley
First Monday in September Late Summer Holiday Elgin, Inverclyde
Second Monday in September Battle of Stirling Bridge Falkirk, Perth, Stirling
Third Friday in September Ayr Gold Cup Ayr, Kilmarnock
Monday after third Friday in September Ayr, Kilmarnock
Third Monday in September Autumn Holiday Edinburgh
Last Monday in September Aberdeen, Angus except Carnoustie and Monifieth area, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Paisley, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire
First Monday in October Carnoustie and Monifieth area, Dundee, Inverness, Perth
Second Monday in October Scottish Borders
Third Monday in October Elgin, Fife
First Monday in November Samhain holiday Inverness
30 November St. Andrew's Day To be taken in lieu
of one of the other statutory holidays at discretion of individual companies/authorities.
an official holiday in Angus, Fife, Scottish Borders

Special holidays

See also


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