Workers demand extra bank holidays

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The Independent Online

As the British gather up their buckets and spades and prepare once more to head off into the traffic jams that are synonymous with bank holiday weekends, there were calls yesterday to increase the number of public holidays.

As the British gather up their buckets and spades and prepare once more to head off into the traffic jams that are synonymous with bank holiday weekends, there were calls yesterday to increase the number of public holidays.

A survey, by the online travel service Expedia, has found, unsurprisingly, that workers want an extra three bank holidays to bring the country into line with the Continent, although many had been unaware that the rest of Europe had more "free" days than us. There are eight public holidays a year in Britain compared with 16 in Italy, 15 in Germany and Spain, and 11 in France.

Patron saints' days, VE Day and the anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, have all been suggested.

The lack of free holidays means that companies can benefit from an extra £2.7bn inlabour every year, while people complain that job insecurity, pressure to succeed and the fears of asking for time off keep them chained to their desks. However, two in five admitted throwing "sickies" to compensate.

Although the European working time directive calls for a maximum 48-hour week, 10 per cent of the population work more than 50 hours and nearly one-quarter do not take their full allocation of holidays.

Another complaint, the survey showed, was that public holidays were bunched together over Christmas, Easter and May, leaving this weekend as the only break in a 210-day stretch between the spring bank holidays and Christmas.

Forecasters are predicting a "virtual wash-out" today, and thundery showers and even flooding are expected around the country. The weather is expected to improve by Monday but the Automobile Association said it was expecting to rescue more than 40,000 motorists over the next three days.

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