One million UK businesses could benefit from a new bank holiday

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date: 20 August 2008

embargo: 00.01hrs Fri 22 August

Nearly one million UK businesses could benefit from a new bank holiday, according to a new TUC report out today (Friday). The TUC are calling for a 'Community Day' bank holiday in late October to celebrate and encourage volunteering and community activity.

The TUC report - Why the UK can afford a Community Day - says that many customer-facing businesses, such as those in the retail, hospitality, leisure, tourism and transport sectors, have stronger trading days on bank holidays and could benefit from a new public holiday. These sectors have grown over the last forty years and now account for nearly a million UK businesses - over one fifth of all UK businesses - according to the Government's VAT registrations.

In sectors likely to benefit from a new bank holiday, consumer spending has grown from 31 per cent of household income in 1971 to 39 per cent in 2005. A new bank holiday will therefore help to continue this spending boom, says the TUC report.

The report says that, as well as encouraging people to go on holidays and short breaks, bank holidays lead to more 'days out', which bring in £90 billion worth of spending a year to the economy in England alone.

In addition to the revenue benefits of a new bank holiday, the TUC report argues that all employers would benefit from the improved productivity, morale, health and well-being that it would give staff. The TUC believes these benefits vastly outweigh the cost of an extra day off work.

After the August bank holiday, workers in the UK will have a four month wait for the next bank holiday on Christmas Day. The TUC, along with leading voluntary organisations, are calling for the Government to break this gap with a 'Community Day' in late October. Community Day would celebrate the great British tradition of volunteering and encourage people across the UK to take part in community activities.

The TUC estimates that if ten per cent of the population took an active role in Community Day, the 'on the day' effect of greater community activity would be worth £250 million. Furthermore, the TUC estimates that the longer term benefits of people taking up volunteering could double the day's economic value to £500 million.

In order for a new bank holiday to be successful, the TUC believes that businesses, community groups and trade unions would need at least a year to prepare. So, even if the Government committed to a new Community Day today, the earliest it could realistically come into effect would be late 2010. According to the Bank of England's most recent quarterly inflation report, the UK economy is expected to have recovered by this time and businesses would therefore be well placed to benefit from a new public holiday.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'A new bank holiday would be very popular for Britain's workers, who have fewer public holidays than anyone else in Europe except Romania. But it could also bring in much needed revenue to around a million UK businesses.

'So far, business lobby groups have stuck to their usual position of opposing anything that benefits staff, including a new bank holiday. But we urge these organisations to think outside the box and recognise the benefits that a new bank holiday could bring to many of their members.

'A Community day would encourage more people to take up volunteering for a day. In return, employers will have a healthier, happier and more productive workforce. We urge businesses, politicians and community groups to join us in our campaign for a new Community Day bank holiday.'

Deputy Executive Director of UK volunteering charity CSV Bill Garland said: 'Research indicates that enabling people to volunteer their time as part of a community day could improve health and increase productivity. Up to half of volunteers report it improves their health and fitness while up to a third of younger volunteers say it helps them smoke less. Employers who actively encourage their staff to volunteer see improvements in staff morale, productivity and a reduction in absenteeism.'

Chief Executive of Volunteering England Dr. Justin Davis Smith said:

'We very much support the idea of a 'Community Day' and hope that MPs will look at this issue seriously. Creating space and time for volunteering is essential for the health of our society and I firmly believe that this day would encourage more people to get involved in their local community.'

Executive Marketing Director of Thomas Cook Simon Carter said:

'Earlier this year, half a million people added their name to a Thomas Cook petition calling for a new Bank Holiday. At the same time, we gave away millions of free days on the holidays that we sold and gave all our employees an extra day's holiday. We did this because we felt it would lead to productivity improvements, boosted morale and a greater connection with the local communities our people are part of, as they used this time to volunteer. If Thomas Cook can do this for our customers and for our staff, we believe this could be replicated across the UK.

'Thomas Cook's customers showed their overwhelming support for a new bank holiday and we know from meeting with MPs that there is considerable support from all parties in Parliament. All we need now is for Government to recognise this and grant what would be a very popular move for hard working Britons.'

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- The Community Day campaign is backed by the TUC, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), Volunteering England, Community Service Volunteers (CSV) and the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA).

- Great Britain currently has 8 bank holidays, compared to an EU average of 10.9 days. Only Romania has fewer bank holidays than Great Britain.

- The TUC's estimated 'on the day' effect of Community Day is based on five million people doing five hours work at a value of £10 per hour.

- Further information on the Community Day campaign is available at www.communityday.org.uk

- The report Why the UK can afford a Community Day will be available on the Community Day website and at www.tuc.org.uk/extras/bankholidaybusinesscase.pdf from 00.01hrs on Friday 22 August. Embargoed copies are available from the TUC press office.

- You can sign up to the Community Day campaign on the campaign website or on the facebook group 'Community Day - Let's have it off!'

- In March 2008 Thomas Cook collected over half a million names on a petition calling on the Prime Minister to introduce a new Bank Holiday and lobbied MPs and Ministers in support of the campaign for an extra Bank Holiday.

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Elly Brenchley T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: ebrenchley@tuc.org.uk

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