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25 October, 2004

Less holidays, please

As reported by the BBC, the TUC is lobbying for additional UK bank holidays (is 'bank holiday' a UK-specific term?  Statutory public holiday, anyway).  At present, the European average is 11 public holidays per year, whereas Northern Ireland has ten, and both England and Wales have eight.  The Scottish total isn't reported, and I can't remember their dates.  The result is that there's an unbroken period of 117 days between the August Bank Holiday and christmas.

Today is the start of the autumn half-term break for schools; a poll for the TUC found that 40% of 20,000 people would like this to be a bank holiday.

"If this Monday were a bank holiday, millions of hard-working families would be able to spend a day with their children during half-term without taking extra leave," said Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC.
This illustrates one of the main reasons I disagree. I don't have or particular wish to encounter children, so don't require a compulsory holiday at the convenience of parents. Likewise, I'm non-christian, so don't want compulsory breaks coincident with festivals of no relevance to me.

In Europe, only the Netherlands has fewer public holidays, but workers there have a higher allowance of annual leave. That's the better model. I'd much prefer to see all UK public holidays abolished, with that number of days transferred to our annual leave allowances, to be taken at times chosen by the individual (and employer). Hence, theists would remain able to take leave for their religious festivals without their schedule being imposed on practitioners of other religions and atheists, and parents could be off work during school holidays whilst others could take breaks at times of our own choosing i.e. specifically when children are in school.

I presume there'd be a need to divide such additional discretionary breaks over the year rather than let people take one single extended holiday - personal and corporate health could suffer if employees were at work for 10-11 months non-stop then absent for a continuous period of 4-8 weeks. I'm sure a workable system could be devised - quarterly leave, perhaps?

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