When did Brits first get holiday leave?

Oh I do like to be beside the sea side...

Holiday-goers in the 1920s enjoy some fun in the sun during a holiday from work at Southend ©Getty

The 1871 Bank Holiday Act established the first paid days off for common workers in England – four days of leave in England, Wales and Ireland. Perhaps surprisingly, Good Friday and Christmas Day weren’t among them. They were so widely considered ‘rest days’, so there didn’t need to be any reason to enshrine them in law. Scotland got five, but they included Good Friday and Christmas Day.


Apart from that, only senior managers were granted additional leave. The Trades Union Congress called for holidays on behalf of the masses in 1911, leading to some forward-thinking employers gradually putting agreements in place, but it wouldn’t be until 1938 that the practice was set in law, giving certain workers with fixed wages the right to one week of paid leave per year.