THE CHANCES ARE that you’re among the large swathes of the Irish population for whom today is the last day of the Christmas holiday.
Just to make sure you’re totally up to speed – today isn’t actually a public holiday, meaning you’re not strictly entitled to have the day off.
The difficulty is that ’bank holidays’ and ‘public holidays’ are not the same thing – one has a legal status, and the other doesn’t.
Legally speaking, there are nine public holidays. They’re defined in the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, and are as follows:
- Christmas Day [December 25]
- St Stephen’s Day [December 26]
- St Patrick’s Day [March 17]
- Easter Monday
- The first Monday in May
- The first Monday in June
- The first Monday in August
- The last Monday in October
- January 1
The law specifically defines the holiday as being “the 1st day of January” – and doesn’t make any allowances for what happens whenever these fall on a weekend.
So because yesterday was the public holiday – and because the law doesn’t provide for a person’s holiday entitlement to be moved – a weekend public holiday is far less useful to the majority of workers.
On a public holiday – i.e. on any of the nine days mentioned above – employees are entitled to paid leave, or another paid day off within a month (or an additional day’s annual leave, or an extra day’s pay, or the nearest church holiday as a paid day off).
But that’s only the case if you would otherwise be working on that day. If you don’t ordinarily work on weekends, and the holiday falls on a weekend, your entitlements are lesser – you’re only entitled to a fifth of your normal weekly wage.
That’s why you’re probably being given a day off instead – because that’s where a bank holiday (an institution with no legal status whatsoever) kicks in.
The majority of businesses, following the titular example of the banks, do decide to transfer the holiday entitlement to their own staff – largely because if they didn’t, they’d have to give you an extra day’s pay.
This is where the handy list from the Irish Payment Services Organisation – a representative body for the payments industry, which includes banks – comes in.
It lists the eleven days considered to be ‘Bank Holidays’ in 2012 – one of which is January 2nd.