In the United Kingdom, public holidays are days on which most businesses and non-essential services are closed, although an increasing number of 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. Legally defined holidays, analogous to "public holidays" in many other countries, are usually called bank holidays in the United Kingdom, but can also be referred to as "public holidays"; strictly, however, "public holidays" refer to "common law holidays", the observance of which derive from custom and practice (see "Terminology" below).
The United Kingdom has no national day holiday marked and/or celebrated for its formal founding date.
In general, increasingly, 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). This would equal Northern Ireland which has St Patrick's Day as a holiday. The Scottish Parliament has passed a law creating a special public holiday on St Andrew's Day but unlike other bank holidays it must be taken by workers in lieu of another public holiday (bank holiday). An online petition to the Prime Minister as to Wales received 11,000 signatures. There are advocates in Cornwall for a public holiday on St Piran's Day.
The two terms "bank holidays" and "public holidays" are often used interchangeably, although strictly and legally there is a difference. A government website describes the difference as follows:
Bank holidays are holidays when banks and many other businesses are closed for the day. Public holidays are holidays which have been observed through custom and practice.
The only date which would seem to qualify nationally as one and not the other is Easter Sunday on which it would be strange to treat as an ordinary date for great governmental business and many shops reduce their hours further than their normal Sunday routine. However informally on various days in various areas or streets – usually where one religion accounts for most of the population or has a resonance – in Britain other dates are commonly avoided for business opening and treated as local holidays.
Bank holidays may be declared in two ways:
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. 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).
|1 January||New Year's Day||From 1974, by Royal Proclamation. See one of the substitutes below if 1 January falls on Saturday or Sunday.|
|2 January||not named||By Royal Proclamation, only in a year in which 1 January is a Sunday. Not applicable in 2020. In a year in which it occurs 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.|
|3 January||not named||By Royal Proclamation, only in a year in which 1 January is a Saturday. Not applicable in 2020.|
|17 March||St. Patrick's Day||Northern Ireland only.|
|18 March||not named||Northern Ireland only, when 17 March is a Sunday. Not applicable in 2020.|
|19 March||not named||Northern Ireland only, when 17 March is a Saturday. Not applicable in 2020.|
|variable||Good Friday||Traditional common law holiday elevated to a statutory footing. Falls on 10 April in 2020.|
|Easter Monday||Statutory bank holiday from 1871, defined by name. Falls on 13 April in 2020.|
|First Monday in May||May Day Bank Holiday||From 1978, by Royal Proclamation. Falls on 4 May in 2020. In 2020 this will be moved to Friday 8 May.|
|Last Monday in May||Spring Bank Holiday or Summer Half-Term Monday||Statutory bank holiday from 1971, following a trial period from 1965 to 1971. Replaced Whit Monday, which had been a public holiday since 1871, and whose date varied according to the date of Easter. Most schools fix a minimum of a week's break to coincide, giving the alternative name. The legislation does not specify a name for the holiday, merely when it occurs. Falls on 25 May in 2020.|
|12 July||Battle of the Boyne (Orangeman's Day)||Northern Ireland only.|
|13 July||not named||Northern Ireland only, when 12 July is a Sunday. Public Holiday in 2020.|
|14 July||not named||Northern Ireland only, when 12 July is a Saturday. Not applicable in 2020.|
|Last Monday in August||Late Summer Bank Holiday||Statutory bank holiday from 1971, 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. The legislation does not specify a name for the holiday, merely when it occurs. Falls on 31 August in 2020.|
|25 December||Christmas Day||Traditional common law holiday.|
|26 December (see Notes)||Boxing Day||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." Public Holiday in 2020.|
|27 December||not named||Statutory bank holiday only in a year in which 25 December is either on a Saturday or Sunday. This has the effect of adding an extra holiday when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday.|
|28 December||not named||By Royal Proclamation. This is an extra holiday added when either Christmas Day or Boxing Day falls on a Saturday.|
Most bank holidays are not recognised in Scotland, as public holidays are generally 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. 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|
|Wednesday after last Tuesday in January||Day after Up Helly Aa fire festival||Shetland|
|1st Monday in February||Winter Holiday||Inverness|
|1st 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|
|1st Monday in April||Spring Holiday||Carnoustie and Monifieth area, Dundee, Fife, Scottish Borders, Inverness, Perth|
|2nd Monday in April||Angus, except Carnoustie and Monifieth area, Elgin|
|3rd 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|
|1st Monday in May||Labour Day or Early May Bank Holiday||all|
|Tuesday after 1st Monday in May||Victoria Day (*)/Spring Holiday||Clydebank, Stirling|
|Last Monday strictly before 24 May||Edinburgh*|
|4th Monday in May||Perth*|
|Last Monday in May||Ayr, Dundee*, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Paisley*, South Lanarkshire|
|1st Monday in June||Galashiels, Inverclyde, Fife|
|Tuesday after 2nd Thursday in June||Linlithgow Marches||Linlithgow|
|Second Thursday in June||Lanimer Day||Lanark area only|
|Last Monday in June||Fair Holiday||Elgin|
|Saturday preceding 1st Monday in July||Edinburgh|
|1st Monday in July||Falkirk, Inverness|
|1st Friday in July||Braw Lads Gathering||Galashiels|
|2nd Monday in July||Fair Holiday||Aberdeen|
|3rd Monday in July||Arbroath, Fife, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire except Lanark|
|4th Friday in July||Scottish Borders|
|Last Monday in July||Dundee|
|1st Monday in August||Paisley|
|1st Monday in September||Late Summer Holiday||Elgin, Inverclyde|
|2nd Monday in September||Battle of Stirling Bridge||Falkirk, Perth, Stirling|
|3rd Friday in September||Ayr Gold Cup||Ayr, Kilmarnock|
|Monday after 3rd Friday in September||Ayr, Kilmarnock|
|3rd 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|
|1st Monday in October||Carnoustie and Monifieth area, Dundee, Inverness, Perth|
|2nd Monday in October||Scottish Borders|
|3rd Monday in October||Elgin, Fife|
|1st 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|
|25 December||Christmas Day||all|
|26 December||Boxing Day||all|
Official bank holidays are:
|1 January||New Year's Day|
|2 January||New Year Holiday|
|1st Monday in May||May Day|
|Last Monday in May||Spring Holiday|
|1st Monday in August||Summer Holiday|
|30 November||St. Andrew's Day|
|25 December||Christmas Day|
|26 December||Boxing Day|
Note: In 2012, there was a special holiday on Tuesday, 5 June, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. Most areas in Scotland did not have Monday 4 June as a holiday.