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Understanding UK bank holidays

We thought it might be useful to explain what “Bank holidays” are in the United Kingdom, as it can seem to be a strange name for what other countries around the world would call “national holidays” for example.

Originating in the  19th century, national holidays have been called “bank holidays” since then because, as you guessed… banks were closed on these days. These days were used by bank employees to work on their bookkeeping, without being disturbed by incoming customers.

Nowadays, banks are still closed (and don’t work on their bookkeeping anymore during these days), as well as businesses and government organisations – and the Post Office! Estate agents will also  be closed on these days. However most shops and supermarkets will be open on these days, which will please the avid shoppers. Beware, these bank holidays do not follow a particular religious calendar, so it would be best to check each year.

We have seen expats looking to do property viewings or to get the keys to their new homes on a bank holiday, which is practically impossible, unless previously agreed (as an exception) with the estate agent.

The government publishes the list of the bank holidays under this link:

The bank holidays are structured as follows:

  • New Year’s Day January 1 or the Monday immediately following January 1
  • Good Friday (Easter Friday)
  • Easter Monday
  • May Bank Holiday – First Monday in May
  • Spring Bank Holiday – Last Monday in May
  • Summer Bank Holiday – Last Monday in August
  • Christmas Day – Or the Monday immediately following if Christmas falls on a weekend
  • Boxing Day – The day after Christmas

Happy bank holidays!

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