Flexible bank holidays: The benefit every company should have

4th October 2022
Flexible Bank Holidays

In January this year, to much fanfare, Deloitte introduced flexible bank holidays to all of its 22000-strong UK workforce. Now all their staff can take bank holidays off when they want and not necessarily on the days themselves. Is this an innovative grand gesture or just something everyone should be doing anyway?

At Secret Source, we’ve had flexible bank holidays ever since we started in 2016, Spotify have offered it since 2017 and thousands of other companies worldwide offer it in one form or another. Yet, the majority don’t. The majority of companies still require all their employees to take bank holidays off on the days that the holidays fall. If you consider that the UK’s bank holiday dates have not really changed since the introduction of the Bank Holidays Act in 1871, with only the additions being New Year’s Day in 1974 and the first Monday of May in 1978. Is it time to rethink the whole notion of compulsory bank holidays?

At Secret Source flexible bank holidays means you simply pool your annual holiday allowance with the number of bank holidays that year into one pot and then you take those days when you want. So instead of our team thinking they have 23 days holiday and 12 bank holidays, they just have 35 days holiday per year that they can take when they want. It works in a similar way at Deloitte, Spotify and many of the other companies that offer it. 

For us, we saw no significant benefit in obliging everyone to take the same day off. Yes, having coordinated days off does make work organisation a tiny bit easier, but nothing that can’t be solved in a daily stand up. However the benefits to the team are enormous. Those team members who don’t have kids can take long weekends when it is cheaper and those that aren’t Christian can take time off on their own religious holidays. Those that want to take bank holidays off, because their kids are off school for example still can, but those that don’t, don’t have to.

One of the big lessons we’ve learnt over the years is “everyone is different” and each person should be treated as an individual and whenever possible, rules should be flexible enough to accommodate everyone’s needs. Celebrate diversity, don’t stifle it. We, like many companies, also have flexi-time and flexible home / remote working too. These policies, however, can be more difficult to implement and do require some kind of organisation, yet flexible bank holidays for many companies is not difficult and would have no negative effect on productivity or the bottom line. So why is it so rare? Why did Deloitte’s announcement even make the news? I think the time has come to challenge the status quo and get companies to reconsider the whole notion of fixed bank holidays and obligatory days off.

So this is our call to arms. All those companies out there that still close down on bank holidays and make their staff have the day off, have a think. Do you need to shut the company on that day? Could you leave it open for those that want to work? Could your team have another day off instead? I appreciate that some companies just can’t do it, (think of the chaos if a school decided to let their teachers choose when to have their holidays) but many companies can. So think about it. If you totally close your office and stop everyone working on bank holidays because that’s the way it is, then have a think, maybe there’s an alternative that would work better for everyone!

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