The group including the TUC, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and Community Service Volunteers (CSV) made the call in a letter to Gordon Brown on the anniversary of the House of Commons approving the Bill granting Britain’s first ever bank holidays in 1871.
The new day off work would be used to encourage people to volunteer for work with community groups – not just on the day but on a continuing basis – with the extra activity and skills development offsetting the costs of an additional bank holiday.
TUC general-secretary Brendan Barber said: “A new bank holiday will encourage more community involvement and celebrate our shared values as a nation.
“It’s a great opportunity for a new prime minister to make a mark in history.”
The Home Office’s citizenship survey estimates the current level of volunteering to be worth more than £40bn a year in England alone. Moreover, more than 11 million people would volunteer if asked.
Barber also said the new day off would also help fill the UK’s public holiday deficit – there are three fewer days off work in the UK than the average for the EU.
Stuart Etherington, NCVO chief executive, said: “We badly need a national day on which we can celebrate the inspirational work that voluntary and community organisations do throughout the year.”
The group said the new holiday should appeal to the new prime minister, who has called for a new day to bring the people of Britain together to celebrate their shared values.