Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Tuesday, 28 August, 2001, 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK
Do we need more holidays?
Union leaders in the UK have called for three extra bank holidays for British workers to bring them in line with the rest of Europe.

The Trades Union Congress says British workers lose out with just eight bank holidays a year in comparison with the European average of 10.8.

There is also no statutory right for UK employees to take public holidays, or to be paid for taking them as time off.

The British don't only get fewer public holidays, they also have the least statutory annual leave in Europe.

Would extra public holidays improve Britain's productivity? Would it make for happier workers? Or is it just a predictably popular cause for unions to champion?

This Talking Point is now closed, but here are a selection of your comments:

Yes, there should be more holidays. A break boosts morale, so workers would work harder. The same would be true in Japan. There are many national holidays here, but most people work them. Also, most people here do not use all their annual leave. People feel bad about taking time off. They should not have to feel so. Rather, they should be encouraged to use their annual leave to help them relax. I'm sure this would improve productivity - and people's quality of life.
D. Ranson, Japan

I find the patronising tone from some of the US contributors on this subject typical. Don't they realise that if everyone else in the world adopted their lifestyle model, they would have no one left to rip off and the world's resources would disappear in a decade. What a legacy!
Allan Rankine, UK

If the UK gets the three extra bank holidays a year, what dates would they be? Knowing scholars' luck they would probably fall during a school holiday or half term. Personnaly, I prefer to have three extra days added to my leave entitlement.
Hazel, UK

What is the point in more public holidays when people are forced to spend half of it in traffic jams

Philip S Hall, England, UK
What is the point in more public holidays when people are forced to spend half of it in traffic jams or finding space on crowded beaches? Surely it makes sense to give everyone an annual leave entitlement which they take when it best suits!
Philip S Hall, England, UK

Well done all you Americans who survive on two weeks holiday a year and can hardly find time to take them, you keep working hard, destroying your family life and creating more and more disparity between the rich and poor. We Europeans will continue to enjoy our five weeks holiday a year with our families. Who's got the better lifestyle?
Gerry, Scotland

Yes I think we should have more holidays, but what about us poor people in the retail trade! Can we have a holiday where large stores have to close!
Terry Cornwell, North West London

What a lot of horror stories! All I can say to the American contributors is to join a union as soon as possible. Two weeks off a year! You might want to double check you're not actually working in hell.
Ian Drennen, Cambridge

More holidays - No! More evenly spread holidays - Yes! It is a nonsense to have three bank holidays in one month and then have nothing at all for almost four months. Remember also when comparing with holidays received in Europe, in some countries whilst they may have a high number of (theoretical) bank holidays, if one of those days falls on a weekend, that day is lost - it does not automatically transfer over to Monday like in the UK. Take for example Norway - if Christmas Day and Boxing Day fall on a weekend - tough!
James Tandy, UK

Yes we should. In most other countries, especially European, consideration is given to the physical and mental health of the employee. Here, in Britain, individuals sometimes feel overworked and they are powerless to change the situation. Let's work to live and not live to work.
Suzanne McMillan, N.Ireland.

They should get together and campaign for a better working life

N. Russel, England
Please stop complaining about Unions! You wouldn't have half the things you take for granted in your work place if it wasn't for them - such as a minimum wage. Stress in the work place is increasing. Find a work place where there isn't any and please tell me how they do it. This puts a strain on the amount of money paid out on sick leave and cover for those on long term sick with stress. You could have a few extra days leave out of that money.

Bank Holidays - too Christian for me - I would rather work on Xmas day and have that day off another time. I feel sorry for the Americans and Canadians. Instead of being jealous and saying we are complaining maybe they should get together and campaign for a better working life. So they have a better economy - possibly due to all the sweatshops, low wages and people having to do 3 jobs to get by. They have some of the worst poverty there.
N. Russel, England

In Scotland we have different public holidays to the rest of the UK and in fact there are variations between different cities. The company I work for employs people who live in both Glasgow and Edinburgh. When the office opened, a lot of staff moved up from England. Trying to cope with 3 different sets of public holidays was impossible, so they took 4 of them away. We now have 4 public holidays a year, but 4 extra days of annual leave to take when we like, and it works much better. And getting to work on a public holiday is so easy, there's no one else on the roads at that time in the morning.
Stuart, Scotland

Individuals should be left to choose when to take their holidays

Luke, Rugby, UK
Bank holidays are an archaic, out of date parochial left-over which has no place in a modern international trading country. Far from Government trying to decide some dubious historic event to link another one to, they should be moving to abolish all except two days at Christmas and the long Easter weekend.

Individuals should be left to choose when to take their holidays and bring an end to the totally mad rush which accompanies these fixed holiday Mondays. Perhaps then we would feel we have more holidays to choose from without actually needing more days.
Luke, Rugby, UK

I think you should stop complaining and enjoy the time you do have off. You have no idea how lucky you actually are. I'm only 16 yet I work EVERY day of the week. I currently attend a private school which takes up about 47.5 hours a week (including homework). To help pay for this I work about 25 hours a week at a part-time job. Let's do some math that's over seventy hours a week. And you think you're over-worked? So I get a couple of days off at Thanksgiving and Christmas and that's it. Even during the summer, which is supposed to give people my age a time to relax and have fun, I'm extremely lucky to get two days off a week and only work 30 hours a week. So would you please realize how well off all of you are?
Katharine, USA

First, let's rearrange the Bank holidays we have now. It seems daft to have so many in April-May. Second, how can so many of the comments above claim "Most people want x" or "Everybody wants y"? People want different things depending on their circumstances. Not everyone wants more holiday, not every one wants to be told when to have their holiday. Not everyone wants to go on holiday on the same days as everyone else. "Good working conditions" do not imply lots of holiday, instead they mean the freedom to choose.
Chris, UK

If you really want more time off, lower your standard of living and go get a part-time job!
Mark M. Newdick, US/UK

Marther Adders suggests that employees should only be paid for the days they work. Surely they should be paid for the amount of useful work they actually get done? That way, the people taking a little more holiday but who are 50% more productive when they're around would be rewarded for it.

More holiday is good for people AND good for business

Chris, UK
More holiday is good for people AND good for business. The only ones who can't see this are the narrow-minded, incompetent managers in the UK, and those from countries like the US or Japan who don't know any better.
Chris, UK

The average US worker works longer hours than most UK workers. We get less vacation days off(2 weeks/year if your're lucky and 7-10 public holidays). Sometimes we don't have time to take any of our earned time off. What has it got us? We have the number one economy in the world. We have some of the lowest prices for goods and services. We can afford more and we certainly buy more. I think we are on the right track. So quit winching about how much you all work. In reality you all are very lucky you get so many weeks off per year. However, you all do pay for it in higher prices for goods and services.
Ashley, USA

More days of having employers pay you for no work? How very European and how very unethical.
Michael Appell, USA

Forget Bank Holidays!! They only lead to gridlocks. Why not stipulate minimum annual leave? Time-off when you really need it.
Carlton , UK

Many people I know get so little time off they have no idea how to cope with a no-work day. Their "lives" have been effectively smothered and obliterated by their jobs. This can't be good.
Karen, UK

It would be nice to have a few extra holidays but it gets very boring hearing the unions whinge. If it's not one thing it's another - either bosses are too demanding, or they aren't paying enough, or there aren't enough holidays. In case you didn't notice, our unemployment is far lower than Europe's. In the US where they have even fewer holidays and fewer workers' rights the economy is even more dynamic.
John B, UK

More days of having employers pay you for no work? How very European and how very unethical.
Michael Appell, USA

It's not 'Do we need more holidays?', it's should we be working so hard?

Tom Brook, UK
In the past 10 years I have worked for several bosses who did not believe in holidays. They did not like to take any and did not seem to think their subordinates ought to have any paid vacation time either. So one does sometimes envy those who have the luxury of being allowed paid vacations within the context of their working lives. Contractual workers in Canada are not entitled to paid vacations and a quarter or so of the workforce chance to fall into that category in order to have any income.
Bob Ezergailis, Canada

I need a holiday but if I'm away from work with things to do I find myself getting super bored. It's not 'Do we need more holidays?', it's should we be working so hard?
Tom Brook, UK

We in the US find it amusing that our friends in Europe and the UK moan about holidays

Jim, US
We're made to fall in line with the rest of Europe on other matters so far, so why put off having the same amount of holiday? The south-east of England is a greedy, material mad part of the UK where work is everything. Time for change!
Mark Saunders, UK

We in the US find it amusing that our friends in Europe and the UK moan about holidays. Most here consider themselves lucky to take a week or two per year. Bank holidays really do not exist, either.
Jim, US

I am sick of Brits whining about rip-off Britain and how hard they work. If they want more paid holidays, how is this going to be paid for? Higher prices of course. Therefore more whining about rip-off Britain. Of course prices are lower in the USA. People work harder but earn less.

Stop snivelling and try working in the States with one day off at Christmas, two weeks vacation if you're lucky and sometimes not paid and no paid sick leave plus your employer can fire you with no notice at any time for any reason.Get a life and stop being so greedy.
Mike, US

As a British ex-pat in the US, I long for the amount of holiday time I had in the UK. At my current employer, we get 2 weeks of vacation, plus a maximum 1 week of paid sick time. In addition, public holidays are few and far between. (For example, we have to work Good Friday and Easter Monday so Easter is just like any other weekend).

I frequently feel burned out and depressed about always working. I think it is a necessity to a productive worker to have more vacation time. Who cares if a worker has two more weeks of vacation if he gets his motivation back and does the job 200% better when he gets off of vacation. I think vacation is a very essential part of working.
Adrian, US

Forget the idea of more bank holidays and just give us more annual leave or shorter working hours! Most people don't get to take bank holidays off as there is no legal requirement to do so.
Lee M, England

How about the Spanish system of 3 hour siestas?

Alex Saradetch, Harrogate, UK
Being self employed, I don't even understand the question. I work every holiday except Christmas, Thanksgiving and the 4th of July, as well as most Saturdays. Any other time off is a three day weekend. I couldn't wish for more job satisfaction.
Jack, US

How about the Spanish system of 3 hour siestas? This means the working day ends at 8:00pm or alternatively, a 10 hour day but let the weekend start on Friday and we would all be better off with a 3 day weekend.
Alex Saradetch, Harrogate, UK

More holidays? YES!

More BANK holidays? NO!

Let's enjoy our leisure at OUR leisure and not when the government forces us to.
Paul Villa, Wales

With the 24 hr/7 day society that we are becoming, extra bank holidays will mean little for the many of those that have to work them and for those of us that get paid only for what we work then yet another enforced day off is not welcome as it means yet another week when pay is less.

More important is to develop a better and more humane set of working conditions for the time when we are working.
Louise W, UK

If workers are stressed then maybe some extra time off is warranted. However, shutting the nation down for a holiday would only add to stress; industry would have to shoulder higher wage costs for essential operations.

I think it would be better to credit people with a flexiday every four months, this would be subject to performance and attendance assessment.
Tom, Australia

It all sounds like a fantastic idea. But having tried to negeotiate extra holidays in return for a salary reduction with all three of my last employers, and recieving a firm 'no' I am somewhat doubtful as to how achievable this is.
Steve Powell, UK

I strongly agree that there is more to life than work. I dearly wish that the Canadian Goverment would observe the above comments. We receive less than eight bank holidays a year over here!
Ian Graham, Canada

I work in the food production industry, we work 24/7 364 days per year, and the day off we do get, someone has to go in and check the stocks. Bank holidays are not really considered, apart from whether you get double time or a day in lieu.

Also, this industry works to such fine margins that we cannot afford to over-staff to take into account, holidays, sickness etc so we are all working our own jobs and part of somebody else's.

So if you do manage to get a day off here and there, spare a thought for the guys producing the food that's on your bar-b-q earning minimum wages!
Phil, UK

Working efficiently for 4 days a week is something we should all aim for in the 21st century

Greg, England
As a schoolchild in the 70s I was told to expect a future where machines did a lot of our work and we would have more leisure time.

Technology has changed the way we work but the benefits are going to shareholders and the very rich rather than to improve the quality of our lives. Working efficiently for 4 days a week is something we should all aim for in the 21st century.
Greg, England

I think we should have a referendum on substantially increasing the number of public holidays as the overwhelming majority of people are in favour of such an increase.

Working time is the most important issue in Britain today and a solution that will benefit the economy is readily available. I don┐t think we should let the Europeans set the standard - the question should be what is best for Britain.
John, England

What's the reward for being the 4th richest country on the planet... more work. I think I'd settle for 5th or 6th and have an extra week a year off.
Craig Jones, Germany

Life's too short to spend it all working and no one is indispensable. The job will still be there after you're long gone. Workaholics suffer more stress, heart attacks and experts say even some cancers are exacerbated by stress. So I say, chill out and enjoy life - you only get one!
Helen, Scotland

More holidays could mean more highly satisfied, more productive staff

Ed Manning, UK
In Britain we are too focused on the amount of time we spend at work, and not focused enough on how productive people┐s work is. If two people both do the same amount of work, but one stays late every night and the other heads out at five on the dot then the one that will be seen as the hardest working is the one that stays late, despite the fact they both get the same amount of work done.

Most managers focus on the number of hours their staff spend at the job, when they should be more concerned about how much work is getting done. A productive efficient staff member who works out quicker methods of working will be seen as a slacker and penalised, therefore there is a disincentive to work more productively. This is harmful to Britain.

High-flying businessmen admit that incentives are important to them and claim high wages without claiming that that this damages business. Many people want more holidays rather than more money from their jobs. More holidays could mean more highly satisfied, more productive staff who over the year do more work. Obviously this is more difficult for certain types of job when the main thing is being there such as shop staff, but generally the question is what is the right balance.

I think in Britain shorter working weeks and more holiday would up to a point increase productivity, and therefore be good for business.
Ed Manning, UK

The majority of us work in order to create wealth for others. We need to get away from the idea that a person is judged purely by the job that they do and learn to calm down.
Chris, Merseyside, England

I would be a lot happier if people would realise that there is more to life than work

Ian, UK
I for one believe in working to live not living to work.

More days off is a good thing. I would be a lot happier if people would realise that there is more to life than work, and your success in life is not measured by your job.

Give us more days off.. allow us to enjoy our lives.
Ian, UK

We should all be planning to work the 4-day week instead... just think of sharing working hours, less unemployment and we will all have more recreation time.

Might also be poor but that's another matter...
Avi T, US

America has the longest hours, the fewest holidays, the least paid vacation in the developed world and you can read in each day's headlines that the stress is literally driving people insane.

Jeff (USA) may have a point though with changing demographics causing Europe difficulty in giving people more days off work. Maybe the trade-off is work a long week and year and go mad, or work a shorter one and not have the resources to take care of retired people.
Kristin, US

I work as a public servant trying to provide medical care to a population 365 days a year. I find Bank Holidays quite disruptive. People want Bank Holidays but expect me or my colleagues to be there for them.

They disrupt the smooth running of my practice: it takes the whole of the week to catch up on one day not at work, hospital clinics and lab facilities are usually disrupted for more than one day, and the bin men manage to take about 2 weeks to get back to work.

Why don't we all just get more annual leave - not more Bank Holidays!
Dr Monica Chidgey, Wales

I have always thought Bank Holidays are a waste of time. Most things are shut and one tends to sit in interminable queues of traffic for the privilege of finding that out. More holidays are long overdue though as we do work far too many hours in this country filling Gordon's war chest, but let's take them when WE, the workers, actually want them.
Shaun, Teignmouth, England

We have some of the lowest wages in Europe, the least holidays, the least caring employers and managers, the worst weather- no wonder British productivity is the lowest in Europe! The CBI is a whinging collection of ingrates. More money, more holidays and quick about it!
Dave, Wales

Not only do our continental cousins have more public holidays, they also have 3 hour lunch breaks!
John Blakeney, UK

No, if Britain has a declining population rate. I don't see how EU countries like France and Germany will be able to retain their liberal holiday policies for much longer. With declining populations and people working less hours, how is the working population going to continue to support the welfare state?
Jeff, USA

Chance would be a fine thing - I don't manage to use all the holidays I do get!

Guy Chapman, UK
It's hard enough trying to run a company already, with the draconian legislation which already exists. By all means make it more difficult still. It's your jobs which will suffer.
Ade Vickers, England

Chance would be a fine thing - I don't manage to use all the holidays I do get!
Guy Chapman, UK

Your facts about the official free days in Holland are technically right but what you don't say is that if Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day fall at the weekend then here we don't get the one or two days extra - it's just tough luck and you just have to accept that. Also working in a shop I am not allowed any free time in the month of December because of it being one of the buisiest times of the year.
Anne Witham, Netherlands

At my job, no one does my work if I'm not there. A week's holiday will result in me finding a week's work waiting when I get back. I might as well have all the time off I want...I have to catch up when I get back. On a sunny day like today I think the hunter-gatherers of 10,000 years ago had it right. Hunt a deer in the morning, have a BBQ in the afternoon and put your feet up. Progress since then? Not a lot I can see in terms of being happy!
Andrew Carter, UK

Our European cousins have a better balance and outlook to life

Michael Carrillo, UK
Brits already work the longest hours in Europe for the least amount of days off per year. Looking at Europe, it's not difficult to see why the divorce rate, heart attacks and quality of life is better in Europe than the UK. Our European cousins have a better balance and outlook to life. Money isn't everything. Shame that for all the talk here and by the unions, we will always be second best at everything. As long as successive UK governments continue to flog us to death, family life will forever suffer.
Michael Carrillo, UK

I work for a US Company and the only public holidays we get are Christmas Day and New Year's Day (even then we have worked them in the past - y2k etc), however we are given a sizable holiday allowance. I think this is fair enough as we can take our holidays when we want them and not when we have to, providing greater flexibility. I don't really see the need for more bank holidays.

The fact that we work the longest hours in Europe and have the fewest holidays shows we are all too tired to be any good at our jobs. The UK should follow the example of France where productivity increased after the number of hours in the working week were reduced. Until more holidays come along, I suggest we all call in sick on at least four working days throughout the year. Preferably when the weather's good.
Johann Tasker, UK

Work is still very much a taboo subject - try taking a discussion beyond the boundaries of "employment is good, unemployment is bad", and you quickly get an anxious or angry reaction. This is, after all, the 21st century. While we don't yet have hover cars or robots, society still clings to its Victorian ideas about work.

I don't believe the point of human existence is to be stuck in an office for seven hours a day in misery. Or on a shop floor asking customers if they need any assistance. Hopefully one day we can live with four or three days work a week. Until then, give us a break. Please?
David Heffron, Glasgow

David Heffron of Glasgow seems to be a thinker - he realises that with the labour-saving machinery and computers of today, we ought to be working less and less for the same pay. But, the establishment will never understand that - they want all the gain from modern inventions.
John Massam, Australia

It's a brave step to take more holidays because we'll be happier and happy workers work better. UK workers do work longer hours but there are a lot of people who still have the attitude that less work is better. Monday mornings the offices are full of people moaning that it's the first day of the working week. They should come back refreshed from their break and have a more positive attitude.
Randy, UK

Those of us who run our own companies take precious few holidays as it is. By all means nominate an extra Bank Holiday, but some of us will probably be working regardless!
Andy Millward, UK

Yes, we should be in line with Europe If we are in the EC then let us be in it 100%
Diana Goreham, England

Yes yes yes!!! High time the EU did something useful and decreed that all workers should have the same holiday allowance in all EU countries! And we definitely need another bank holiday between now and Christmas!
Antony, UK

Of course more bank holidays would be great, but for the people who don't get bank holidays off and have to work through, it would be like rubbing their noses in it!
Kim, UK

Of course we do! I work a 44 hour week and never have time to take up all my annual leave. Bank holidays are a way to ensure that us workaholics get some sort of break...
Janet, UK

Who would say no to more time off?

Rachel Horner, UK
It is a predictable cause for the Unions to champion - who would say no to more time off after all? And it is also predictable that businesses won't like the thought, because they will lose some further working hours. However, I believe that there are certain portions of the year when a bank holiday would do some good. After August there are no public holidays until Christmas.

All the public holidays also seem to be centred around the Christian religion, which is okay for me as I am Christian. However, there are many people in this country who follow different religions. Shouldn't we respect their beliefs as well by declaring public holidays that coincide with their traditional events? It's only fair after all in the multi-cultural society of today.
Rachel Horner, UK

Stop complaining, at least you've got jobs.
Jim, England

If employees only got paid for the days they work (as should be the case), then the number of bank holidays, maternity leave taken, sickness, etc. would become irrelevant. End of argument. Anything else would be a subsidy of one group by another.
Marther Adder, UK

Why do the Unions always have to go over the top?

Chris, UK
Why do the Unions always have to go over the top - they can't just ask for one! However having lived in France myself for a period of time it is clear that their quality of life is significantly better, but then again they have the weather to make use of it.
Chris, UK

I work as part of a global operations team, with members in US, SG and UK. It is noticeable that we have fewer public holidays than those locations but a greater number of annual days, esp. in comparison to the US. Should the comparison not go a little further than Europe? Also, as part of a flexible working scheme here, we are able to "purchase" additional days of annual leave.
Martin Evans, UK

See also:

09 Aug 01 | Business
Bosses failing to make the break
05 Sep 00 | UK
All work and no play
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Talking Point stories