Nearly half of SMEs want May holiday later in year

Almost half of all small businesses would like to see today's May Day bank holiday moved to the autumn in future years, new research shows. Managers and owners of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) say the proximity of the May Day holiday to Easter makes for disruption to their businesses and often leaves them with a dilemma about whether or not to give staff the day off.

Some 49 per cent of SMEs believe the May Day holiday should be dropped and replaced with a bank holiday later in the year.

Most of those in favour of the move think a "Trafalgar Day" in October would be the best option, though some would prefer to see a new bank holiday in September.

The survey, conducted by IFF Research, also reveals that 42 per cent of SMEs are open for business today, with managers instructing their staff to work through the bank holiday. While this year's May Day has given businesses a particular headache because it follows the bank holiday declared for Friday's royal wedding, SMEs complain that the spring run of holidays is disruptive every year.

The Confederation of British Industry estimates that the cost to the UK economy of each bank holiday is roughly £1.5bn, with small business organisations complaining that SMEs find it especially difficult to cope with days off for staff, particularly when there is a crop of them.

"Our research shows that public holidays, especially when they come so close to Easter, present many SMEs with the difficult decision of whether or not to stay open for business and moving the bank holiday to later in the year alleviates this problem," said Mark Speed, the joint managing director of IFF Research.

"Replacing the May Day bank holiday with a date in October means most of the workforce get a well-earned day off before the final run-up to Christmas – a busy time commercially for most organisations – and gives us all something to look forward to before the clocks turn back and the long nights start to draw in."

Mr Speed said many small business owners were at pains to say they did not wish to see staff miss out on a day off, just to have it moved. Research shows that just 15 per cent of SMEs believe the UK has too many bank holidays. There has also been a backlash against criticism of Friday's royal wedding bank holiday. The accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that London alone saw an economic benefit of £107m from the celebrations.