Should the August Bank Holiday return to the beginning of the month?
With the weather forecast for the August Bank Holiday weekend appearing uncertain there is may be a case to review the date on which it takes place.
Reviewing the date of the holiday is likely to be more popular than trying to change its name to Margaret Thatcher Day, which a small group of Tory MP’s proposed in the House of Commons in 2013.
The August Bank Holiday was set as the first Monday of the month by the 1871 Bank Holidays Act and only changed for an experimental period to the last Monday in 1965. The change was made permanent in 1971 in the Banking and Financial Dealings Act but does not apply to Scotland. It was primarily a result of pressure from the holiday industry who felt that a later holiday would extend the season.
Before legislation in 1938 Bank Holidays were the only official paid holidays available to workers and were seen as a significant advance in working class leisure time.
The August Bank Holiday was the most popular of those agreed by the 1871 Act precisely because it was in summer and the weather was likely to be better for a trip out than the Easter holiday.
Railway companies ran excursions and extra trains to seaside destinations.
The nature of holidays, although still strongly influenced by school terms, has changed considerably in the last 40 years with short breaks at home and abroad more popular.
However the weather and certainly the available sunlight hours are potentially better earlier in August.
Typically given the unpredictable nature of the British weather it was rather wet on Monday August 1st this year when Scotland marked the August Bank Holiday.
Recent discussion of bank holidays has focused on whether the UK should have more, if May Day should be maintained and if there should be an autumn bank holiday. Yet there is something of an historical case now for moving the August Bank Holiday in England and Wales back to its original early August date.
The nature of work and of holidays has changed considerably since 1971 and I suspect that while the period around the current Bank Holiday remains a popular time to take a break, peak holiday time is in the two weeks after schools break up (in many areas) in late July.