Government considers additional bank holiday in October


Patricia Yates, acting chief executive of VisitBritain, speaking via video to the DCMS committee yesterday.
Photo: House of Commons/PA Wire/PA Images

The government is considering a one-off, additional public holiday to help compensate the tourism industry’s lost revenue for the bank holidays ‘lost’ to lockdown during the Covid-19 crisis.

Speaking to MPs on the digital, culture, media and sports committee, Patricia Yates, acting chief executive of VisitBritain, said the tourism sector expected to lose £37bn from the impact of coronavirus lockdown.

She said an additional day off for 2020 would “stimulate demand when it is possible to travel”.

A Downing Street spokesman said the government was “supporting the tourism industry during this challenging time”, and would respond to the proposal in due course.

But other sectors could lose out. He added: “It is worth acknowledging that an extra bank holiday comes with economic costs.”

The most likely date would Monday 26 October 2020, at the start of most schools’ half-term break.

Employers – particularly whose employees ordinarily work on public holidays – would need to consider how an additional bank holiday would affect pay and holiday entitlements.

There is no statutory right for employees to take bank holidays off work – it depends on the terms of the employee’s contract of employment.

Stephen Simpson, principal employment law editor at XpertHR, said: “If the employment contract states that the employee is entitled to a certain number of days’ annual leave ‘plus bank holidays’, they will be entitled to the extra day off. However, this will not be the case if the contract provides for a set number of days’ holiday but is silent on the issue of bank holidays, or provides for a set number of days’ holiday ‘plus eight bank holidays’, or states which bank holidays are included.

“Employers may wish to provide workers with the day off as a gesture of goodwill or as a ‘thank you’ to workers who have been through the mill because of the coronavirus pandemic. In sectors where employers will want to be open for business on the bank holiday, for example retail, they could provide an extra day off as time off in lieu if employees are required to work on that day.”

Lord Andrew Adonis, the Labour peer described an extra day off as a very bad idea. He said on Twitter: “Why do we want another bank holiday this year? Too little inactivity isn’t this year’s problem.”

UK Hospitality, leisure business trade body, spoke positively of an extra bank holiday but also expressed caution.

“A bank holiday in October may provide a welcome boost for hospitality businesses, not least at a time when consumer confidence will hopefully be returning to healthy levels,” chief executive, Kate Nicholls, told the BBC.

“However, we are still some way from knowing what the sector will look like. A lot depends on whether businesses are able to open safely and whether the government continues to support businesses who need it.”

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