Royal Wedding: Give workers a day off to toast Will and Kate
David Cameron is right to say that he’s in favour of creating a one-off bank holiday to celebrate the Royal Wedding. I’m only a very lukewarm Royalist at best, but I still have happy memories of the 1973 and 1981 Royal Wedding Bank Holidays, which I spent having a good time at local street parties.
UK workers have been very hard pressed during the last couple of years and its time that they got something to cheer them up. With another special bank holiday for the Queens Diamond Jubilee already announced for June 2012, the Government should now think again about introducing Community Day as a permanent bank holiday in 2013.
The announcement of the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton drew a very positive response from public, press and government alike, with the PM saying that he wanted the occasion “to be a day of national celebration” and said that he was in favour of an extra day off.
The only fly in the ointment has been the response of the CBI, who said that an extra bank holiday would be a terrible idea and would cost the UK £6 billion. The TUC disputes this estimate. It’s three times as high as the estimate produced by the Treasury as an argument against new bank holidays, and we also thought was too high because it excluded the stimulus to business that occurred in certain sectors (tourism, retail , hospitality and transport have some of the best trading days on bank holidays).
Taking these gains into account, we estimate that the average economic cost of a standard bank holiday is more likely to be in the region of £1.2 billion. There are also some personnel gains from extra holidays with, for example, research suggesting that each extra day away from work reduced sickness absence by 1/20th.
There will still be a substantial cost, but some costs are worth paying if we are not to become machines that live merely to work.
The TUC and its voluntary sector partners (NCVO, CSV, NAVCA, and Volunteering England) are calling for a new Community Day Bank holiday in the autumn. This would encourage volunteering and community activity, using galas in towns and villages across the UK as a focus for increased engagement in our people-friendly vision of the Big Society.
We would expect the extra value to society generated by community day to make the new holiday almost cost neutral. Given that we could well have one off bank holidays in 2011 and 2012 anyway, the Government could announce that Community Day will start in October 2013, and we could then get on with planning for this event.
Precedent suggests that a bank holiday should be declared to mark the weddings of the most senior members of the Royal Family, as was the case with the wedding of Princess Anne in 1973 and Prince Charles in 1981.
Other one-off public holidays have included the millennium bank holiday (2000 AD), the queen’s Silver jubilee in 1977 and the Golden Jubilee in 2002.