Monday, 30 December 2013

Time to Scrap the Public Holiday ?

I went back to work as did many others. However, there are those who won't go back until Thursday while some will be off for the whole of this week. On the other hand, there are those who worked last Friday.

The notion of a Christmas closedown exists in some industries such as construction but last week's events showed how vulnerable private and public institutions were to difficulties around Christmas. One of the frequent complaints from those affected by flooding or power failures in Surrey and Kent has been the lack of communication from power companies and local authorities. The unpalatable truth was that for many in those sectors, Christmas "began" either the Friday before or at lunchtime on Christmas Eve and under-resourced and poorly-managed skeleton staffs were left to cope with the unfolding disaster.

In a society with people of many faiths and none and in an era with Internet availability 24/7, it seems ludicrous that we go through this annual ritual of shutting up shop from two days to two weeks while it shouldn't be forgotten that not only did many people have to work Boxing Day (retail, catering, racecourses) but an often-forgotten minority work Christmas Day as well.

Given the growth of home working, I find it hard to understand why my employer decided I had to take a day's Annual Leave last Friday just because he didn't want to open an office and power it up for a day. As a result, I had to take a day off that I didn't really want while in truth I could have worked at home and been productive and provided a service.

Indeed, throughout the year we have these "public holidays" which are holidays for increasingly few and lost income for those paid only for the hours they work. I contend they are now an anachronism and in an age of freedom workers should be able to take the time they want as leave when they want to and not be governed by some arbitrary notion of "bank holidays".

People should not of course lose any leave entitlement - simply add the former public holidays to the standard leave total leaving the option for those who wish to work or not. Employers would no longer have to pay double time or time and a half for cover on these public holiday days but would be legally compelled to provide additional leave for staff.

Christmas Day is the only day in the calendar currently when all public transport stops (there were Tubes in London until the 1970s) but there are those who don't celebrate Christmas and others who might like the trappings of civilisation to exist - why for example should those foreign visitors who come to Britain and spend their money here not be able to get about on Christmas Day ?

Of course Easter and Christmas are religious holidays for many Christians and I'm not suggesting these be ignored but they are flouted to a considerable extent now and in an increasingly secular society how relevant are they ? In any case, we come back to the fundamental question of freedom - should not every worker be able to take leave when it suits them and not at a time dictated by an increasingly anachronistic State ?

It is now time to "ban the Bank Holiday" and set people free.

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