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Sunday, 2 January 2011

Monday 3 January: the real reason it's a public holiday

Saturday 1st January was very quiet here in Brighton. There were a lot of people staying in bed, nursing hangovers. That's called Celebrating the New Year.

Some of the shops actually shut, though it wasn't a public holiday. They were just being realistic.

In some countries New Year's Day would have been a public holiday on the actual day.

But in Britain, a public holiday must fall on a weekday (Monday to Friday). So the New Year's Day public holiday gets shoved forward to Monday 3rd January.

Why? Because otherwise Monday to Friday public sector workers would miss out when New Year's Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday. The same thing happens with Christmas Day and Boxing Day holidays. Public sector workers really are indulged.

How much nicer it would have been for the public holiday to have been given on the Saturday 1st with the government giving hints to retailers that, frankly, since half the population will be suffering from the effects of a late night and lots of drink, why not accept reality and shut up shop for the day?

But we don't live in a fair society. Public holidays have become public sector holidays. Shop workers live with that fact all the year round.

Personally, I would abolish all public holidays and add them into individual entitlements. Workers would negotiate their holiday days to suit their needs and tastes. With any luck, the public sector would discover the idea of a Rota and its services would remain available 364/365 - maybe even 365/365

As it is, between 24 December and 4 January we live with skeletal public services. That suggests that many of them are not so "vital" as the public sector unions would have us believe. They are part-time services functioning to suit their employees.

Christmas and New Year is a bad time to get ill - you are more likely to die because you are more likely to be treated by someone who is standing in or moonlighting or simply hungover. That's one of the best arguments for NO public holidays and a duty Rota throughout the health service, GPs surgeries included. If they don't know how a Rota works, they could ask their local Tesco. Or their local kebab shop.

Postscript. I am asked, How much do you expect people to work?

I reply: there are 365 days in the year. If people don't have to work on more than two thirds of those days, we're doing well, and if their working shift averages 8 - 9hours including breaks, we're doing all right. Put it another way: if you don't have to work more than five days in any one week and if, in addition, you get 30 days ( 6 working weeks') holiday - total 134 days holiday with no separate public holiday entitlements - you've probably got something which is as good as it gets.


Added 24 July 2018: A much expanded version of this argument forms a chapter on Time Management in my paperback The Best I Can Do (degree zero 2016) freely available from Amazon, Waterstones and other booksellers.

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