Business leaders have given a cautious welcome to Labour plans to introduce a new Bank Holiday if elected for a third term.
Downing Street policy advisers are drawing up the plans to offer a new public holiday, probably in the autumn, as part of its general election manifesto.
Matthew Taylor, the official charged with drawing up the manifesto, is said to be interested in the idea as a way of selling Labour’s agenda of improving the work-life balance.
Labour believes it will be a “symbolic” way of encouraging workers to spend more time with their families.
But the move is likely to cost 1.5bn in lost productivity, according to the CBI, as most employers would be obliged to pay workers for the day.
The ideal time for the new holiday, advisers believe, would be in autumn, to break the ‘slog’ between the end of summer and Christmas, when there are 117 working days between the August Bank Holiday and the festive break.
Dates that would imbue it with a historical significance would be Trafalgar Day (21 October) or Armistice Day (11 November).
Trade unions have been campaigning for more public holidays to bring the UK into line with Europe, which averages 11 days a year.
England, Scotland and Wales currently have eight public holidays, while there are 10 in Northern Ireland.
A TUC poll of 20,000 people found that 40 per cent would prefer a Bank Holiday near the start of the autumn half-term break.
A senior Labour source said: “The policy would be a symbolic step in enabling people to better manage their work and home life.
“It was one of the clearest ideas that came out of the Big Conversation exercise [where Labour surveyed public opinion].”
Graeme Leach, chief economist at of the Institute of Directors: “We take a slightly laid-back approach to this. It does have an extra cost to business, but the impact would be relatively small so we are not utterly opposed.”
Charles Cotton, reward adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development: “We live in a 24×7 global economy.
“Business needs and people’s caring responsibilities, religious commitments or just plain desires to take holidays at times convenient to them vary widely.
“Another arbitrary day’s leave may not be the best way of achieving a better work-life balance, or of increasing paid leave for those who get little more than the minimum.”
A CBI spokesman: “We all like the idea of more time off, but there is no such thing as a free lunch.
“If we award ourselves more free time we would all end up paying because lower productivity can mean less investment, fewer jobs and higher prices.
“We suspect the people who would be most delighted would be in competitors countries such as China, India and France.”
David Cracknell is the political editor at the Sunday Times. He writes on political issues for Personnel Today