They used to be called public holidays, though today we know them as Bank Holidays. They were, after all, created by a banker. While you might have already been aware of that, here are ten interesting Bank Holiday facts that might surprise you.

1. There used to be 33 public holidays

Before 1834 there used to be an astonishing 33 public holidays that celebrated religious festivals and Saint’s Days; however, in 1934, the powers decided that was too many, so they reduced them to four.

2. Sir John Lubbock created modern bank holidays in 1871

Liberal MP, banker and polymath who also communicated with Charles Darwin on evolution, created the first bank holidays in 1871 through the Bank Holidays Bill. Informally called “St Lubbock Days”, they included Easter Monday, Whit Monday, the first Monday in August and Boxing Day. The bill added these to the existing two official holidays – Christmas Day and Good Friday – making six days in total – though previously, Whit Monday and Easter Monday were also generally considered holidays.

3. Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971 now regulates UK bank holidays

In 1971 the Banking and Financial Dealings Act, which regulates Bank Holidays in the UK, restated the then-existing Bank Holidays Bill without granting any extra days off. Still, New Year’s Day was added as a Bank Holliday in 1974, and May Day was introduced in 1978.

4. Nowadays, new Bank Holidays are made by Royal Proclamation

Although the Queen isn’t directly involved in making the decision, new and special holidays are announced by Royal Proclamation – they don’t require an act of parliament. This system adds flexibility to the system.

5. Bank holidays in lieu

Should a bank holiday fall on a weekend, which can only apply to Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and Saint’s Days, the holiday is taken in lieu at either side of the weekend.

6. England and Wales don’t do as well as Scotland and Ireland

While currently, there are eight bank holidays in England and Wales, Scotland enjoys an extra day off, making nine, and Ireland gets ten. In Ireland, St Patrick’s Day and Orangemen’s Day are bank holidays and in Scotland, so are 2nd January and St Andrew’s Day, though Scotland doesn’t get Easter Monday.

7. We have fewer bank holidays than most other places in the world

The only country with fewer public holidays than the UK is Mexico which has just seven. India has the most, with 21 public days off.

8. What became of Whit Monday Bank Holiday?

Whit Monday, also known as Pentecost Monday and celebrated by the Christian Church, was also a bank holiday. However, from 1965 to 1970, it was, as a trial, moved to the final Monday in May. Presumably, they found that this worked well, so it was moved officially to that day by the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971. We now call it Spring Bank Holiday.

9. The government almost moved May Day to October

While we associate May Day with Morris Men and dancing round the Maypole, in 2011, the Coalition Government attempted to move it to October and rename it either UK Day or Trafalgar Day. They intended to extend the holiday season. However, they were unsuccessful as opponents to the change argued that doing so would damage May Day festivals.

10. The TUC want four additional bank holidays – will we get them?

In 2021 the TUC called on the government to add four additional bank holidays. However, while we will get an extra day by Royal proclamation which will be added to bank holidays 2022 to celebrate the Queens Platinum Jubilee, that is a one-off and there is little sign the government is listening to the TUC’s pleas. So, the short answer is “No”.

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They call it a “workation” – based on work plus vacation – but it’s not a word we much care for, so this is the penultimate time we’ll use it. In fact, we don’t need a word for it. Instead, we’ll call it working-on-holiday or, for short, WOH. It’s something more of us appear to be doing than ever before.

In the past, many of us were happy to receive an occasional phone call or send a quick email while on holiday. We’d think nothing of it. But today working on holiday has become a different exercise. It’s become big business for the tourist sector too. Just search the web, and you will find numerous travel agents offering to sell you a “dream workation” that won’t affect your employee holiday. But is working on holiday such a great idea? Does it genuinely offer a better work-life balance, or does it mean your work is compromised and your holiday fails to satisfy you because of the extra stress you are under from work?

Remote working kick-started working-on-holiday

Many of us were initially forced into remote working by the pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns. While today hoards of office workers are heading back to their desks, most of them are still working from home at least one or two days a week. Few office workers would be happy to return to our pre-pandemic office working patterns. And those that have returned to the office have adopted different work ethics, such as ditching de rigour formal work attire.

Working remotely is now so firmly entrenched in our collective psyche that we may never return to full-time office working.

Working from anywhere

With many people working remotely, initially working from home and rarely visiting the office, it wasn’t long before they realised that they could work from anywhere. As long as they had a laptop and access to the internet, they could work just as well in Melbourne, Bangkok, Prague or Budapest. So why not travel to exotic places you have always dreamt of visiting and work from there? There is still ample time to make the most of your new location out of working hours. It’s the opposite of a staycation – rather than taking time off work to holiday locally, you work full time while spending time in your holiday location. And, of course, the additional advantage of not having to enter it in your holiday planner.

Ideal – so what could be the problem?

One potential downside is the cost. While travel agents are encouraging the practice of working-on-holiday, for the traveller it means spending significant sums of money travelling to exotic destinations along with accommodation costs just to spend the best part of the day working. And it’s not only the travel companies muscling in on the trend. Some businesses offer working-on-holiday tourists accommodation and workspaces on the beachfront, including superfast broadband connectivity.

Another downside is the potential effect on your work-life balance. The working trip on its own requires considerable juggling. Keeping your mind focussed on the job and away from the beach requires significant willpower, and if partying is part of your typical holiday scene, curtailing it to mesh with your work commitments might prove too much to handle. So what you might consider as the best of both worlds could soon turn into the worst of both.

Then there is your boss’s and colleagues’ perspective. How can you convince your colleagues back home that you remain committed to the job and work as hard as usual? Any errors you might make will surely encourage criticism of your current lifestyle. You can almost hear them grumbling that they always said that work and play don’t mix. So when you finally return home, will you feel satisfied, or will you also feel a little guilt?

Travel broadens the mind

Rather than ending on a downer, there are also upsides to working-on-holiday. As they say, travel broadens the mind. As Mark Twain put it more eloquently:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

The mind-broadening experience of visiting far-flung places can transpose into new insights that inspire your work. Thus you can work harder, smarter, and more productively, with no need to make an entry in the online holiday planner.

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