Holiday? Don't bank on it, mate

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The Independent Online

What bank holiday? Up to one third of British employees will be working tomorrow. And the "workaholics" will not be highly paid City brokers and company bosses - the majority being forced to give up their August bank holiday and a rare three-day weekend will be ordinary staff members.

What bank holiday? Up to one third of British employees will be working tomorrow. And the "workaholics" will not be highly paid City brokers and company bosses - the majority being forced to give up their August bank holiday and a rare three-day weekend will be ordinary staff members.

According to figures from the Labour Force Survey, 7,600,000 workers, about 31.5 per cent of all employees, are forced to work at least one bank holiday during the year.

This weekend, as thousands of Britons went abroad to escape the rain, thousands of nurses, train and bus drivers and security staff, as well as the police and the armed forces stayed on duty. They make up the "essential" services. But also staying put were 20 per cent of the country's construction workers, 25 per cent of manufacturing workers, 35 per cent of machine operators and 40 per cent of retail staff.

Not only are these employees asked to work, many are penalised if they don't, according to the survey which finds that sales staff and hotel workers are likely to have their pay docked if they refuse to work public holidays.

But John Edmonds, the general secretary of the GMB trade union, is asking employers to honour the bank holiday. "It's time for bosses to give their employees a break. Millions are finding themselves press-ganged into working throughout the holiday, under pain of losing vital income."

Diana Pidwell, a practising psychologist, in Blackpool, Lancashire, said employers were not likely to get the best from their staff by forcing them to work on bank holidays. "People are much more likely to work happily and produce a good day's work if they feel they are considered and asked their opinion and they are not feeling they have got to work - or else," she said.

In the past, factories would often close early on the holiday Friday to ease the exodus from the towns to the seaside. Resorts, from Clacton to Blackpool, would fill up on the Friday night and do a roaring trade until Monday evening, when all would return home at the same time, clogging the roads and making the lead on the early evening news bulletins.

The idea of the bank holiday was that business, especially the City, was supposed to co-operate: if the banks closed, business had to follow suit. But today Britain never really closes. Britons work more hours each day that most other Europeans and have the fewest number of public holidays in the EU.

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