If you’re not British, you perhaps won’t know that the country currently has a government that is, to put it bluntly, rather toxic. It’s set about systematically dismantling the welfare state, including the NHS, and reducing taxes for anyone earning over £150,000, despite yelling “we’re all in it together”. The latest murmurs are that bank holidays are in the firing line, backed by reports arguing if bank holidays were scrapped, the UK would be £19 billion better off (BBC News).
These kinds of reports drive me nuts, because they are based on dry numbers and not how humans work and interact. Simply measuring the UK’s typical output and applying it to days off is simplistic in the extreme. This is because holidays give many people time to rest and recharge, and they enable people to do things together, thereby increasing morale. By removing holidays, productivity during some of the working days that would replace them would be lower, and that £19 billion would end up being a very optimistic figure. This is even more the case when you examine the losses that would impact the leisure industry if those in the UK by default had fewer days off.
Another argument in the same article, is merely to spread out the holidays throughout the year, because they’re currently mostly in the spring and summer:
[ Centre for Economics and Business Research founder Douglas McWilliams] said that by spreading out public holidays, rather than scrapping them, people would enjoy them more.
Spreading them out is certainly a better idea than scrapping them altogether, but why would people enjoy the holidays more if they were moved to less appealing times of the year? That the UK has most holidays in spring and summer is beneficial, because people can make better use of them. Move one from August to November and you just have people moping about on a day off, staring out the window at grey drizzle.
Before I became a freelancer, there were two things I steadfastly believed employers should never mess with: pay and holidays. Oddly, many employers do screw around with both, but those that don’t generally have more content staff. Whatever goes wrong at work, people at least know they have their days off and their pay cheques. The UK, though, now has a government that’s happily assaulting the incomes of more or less anyone who’s not hugely wealthy (Guardian), and I wonder if it’s only a matter of time before some halfwit Tory or Lib-Dem MP argues in front of the Commons that no-one really needs bank holidays anyway—before one of Parliament’s extended breaks, natch.