Voices: The bitter truth? Bank holidays cost some of us far too much

·4-min read
Voices: The bitter truth? Bank holidays cost some of us far too much

The government has described Monday as a “unique national moment”, which is right – but in more ways than it perhaps realises. The country is pausing to watch the final earthly moments of the world’s richest woman in a state-mandated holiday that will leave millions of people out of pocket. With inflation still at its highest level for four decades, it feels a little dissonant.

For those who are self-employed or casual workers, this cancellation of a day’s work came with less than a fortnight’s notice. The unexpected day off also means no schooling and no childcare and little time to make a plan for that cover.

Families for whom these two factors combine – children who require childcare, and have at least one parent who can’t earn money on Monday despite expecting to – are quids down before they’ve even dragged themselves out of bed to stick on CBeebies.

This is true of all bank holidays, but it doesn’t make it easier to digest. As one mother shared on Twitter this week: “We have to pay [the] cost of a full day for the bank hol and inset days that the nursery is closed on. This year it equates to 13 days paid for my child to not be able to attend, just shy of £950.” Others have echoed the same.

Almost £1,000 in additional expenses for… nothing. Even the most ardent of royalists will be counting the cost of remembrance and national respect paying as households struggle to stretch shrinking incomes to meet rising basic living costs.

This is not a small fraction of the population, an unfortunate few who endure a bit of annoying luck while the rest of the country settles down in the drizzle to the last barbecue of the season. Although self-employment has fallen dramatically since the outbreak of Covid and the creation of the Treasury’s furlough scheme in 2020, there were still 4.2 million people registered as self-employed earlier this year.

Another 1.57 million people work for an employer but are considered casual workers, approximately two-thirds of whom have signed some form of zero-hours employment contract. If they were due to work on Monday and now cannot, there will be no chance to make up that shift and no way to avoid the committed costs of a childcare place already held.

The backlash to the quickly canned decision by holiday camp operator Center Parcs to evict guests from its villages for a day on Monday as a “mark of respect” to the Queen was so furious in part because of the cost of the decision.

Finding a new place to stay for one night, or going home early and accepting the loss of a few days of already paid-up holiday time – neither feel like a good option when every single penny of each household budget is painstakingly allocated.

The Trussell Trust, which operates a network of food banks nationally, has warned its communities all regular Monday banks will be closed on the 19th due to the Queen’s funeral – and faced aggressive criticism. Of course these banks are entirely volunteer-led efforts, and there will be fewer volunteers available when at least half the nation wishes to watch the funeral procession.

Yet thousands now depend on food banks for their survival. Each parcel contains a food supply to last between three and seven days.

Each user is allowed to use a bank four times to support them through a period of crisis, and if your weekly visit happens to be on this unexpected Monday bank holiday… well, what then? Understanding the implications, Wimbledon food bank has rallied volunteers and committed to opening its doors on the bank holiday.

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That may be extremes, but they exemplify the not small financial challenges that millions face on Monday. Sharing our collective history is important, but so is the matter of the cost.

What will I be doing on Monday? Looking after two children while my husband works – and paying £65 to a nursery for the privilege of staying at home.

What will you be doing on Monday? Will you watch the Queen’s funeral or deliberately avoid it? Perhaps you might have a pub lunch or travel to visit relatives, to watch together as a chapter of British history closes. Maybe you’ll be working, but hopefully for a little extra pay; after all, it is a bank holiday.