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image of beach with ice cream | accountingweb | bank holiday a thing of the past

Laughing all the way to the bank holiday


With clients increasingly expecting service round the clock and round the year, can we no longer rely on being able to take bank holidays off to relax?

13th May 2024
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We are in one of those spells where public holidays appear more reliably than London buses.

Not so long ago, this guaranteed regular long weekends for accountants and those in most other professions, but improved communications and connectivity have changed the game forever.

While banks and many public services such as local libraries and council offices (not to mention His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) close on every holiday and some staff might even still get additional courtesy days, the world of work is undergoing a massive transformation.

To a degree, this is a consequence of the homeworking phenomenon that was forced on us when Covid struck four years ago.

While an increasing proportion of employers is seeking to get staff back into offices, others are happy to cut property costs and let workers spend much or even all of their time working from home (WFH).

The upside of WFH is the flexibility presented by spending two or three days a week at home, pampering the kids or the cat and welcoming deliverers or maintenance people, which is undoubtedly a boon.

Some of us also enjoy the freedom to flex working hours to accommodate a visit to the gym, the shops, a long lunch or, if the rain ever stops, an early or late round of golf.

Great expectations

Unfortunately, clients’ expectations have also changed. The elderly can probably remember a time when you really could work core hours, even if a little longer than 9 to 5, and relax in the evenings, on weekends and especially those extended by bank holidays.

For many of us, that is now unimaginable. It can actually reach a point where you don’t even notice that every third or fourth Monday is supposed to be a holiday. Work is there and needs to be done and after all, we are in a service industry.

Indeed, this article is being written on the May Day bank holiday, although the unremitting rain has destroyed the original plan.

Many clients will run operations that are oblivious to designated days off and expect us to do the same. It may just be my bad luck but over the years an increasingly sizeable proportion have become considerably more demanding.

It is a brave or foolhardy accountant who will tell someone slogging away in their own trade that we are taking yet another day off, courtesy of HM Government or whoever it is that delineates certain days for closure of public businesses.

The same can apply when bombastic partners expect staff to work themselves into the ground, quite often while they are swanning off enjoying a drunken lunch with “prospective clients” AKA mates who haven’t provided a penny of work in the past decade.

Attempt to disappear

As the world shrinks, at least in terms of communications, there is a further problem for those attempting to disappear on public holidays. If you are working with clients, colleagues or other professionals from overseas, they do not necessarily share UK holidays, as a result of which your services could be desperately needed on what they see as a normal work day.

Why does any of this matter? If you choose to forego public holidays or are forced to do so, this can inject additional pressure and stress into your life, especially if your family don’t take it well.

Being available or working 24/7 is becoming more prevalent and must be unhealthy. When this extends to public holidays, that makes things worse.

Unless you’re the kind of person who still has the fortitude to say “no”, perhaps the solution is to accept the need to work at times when others are enjoying themselves but, in exchange, add a couple of extra days to your summer holiday to compensate for the pain and also make amends to the spouse and kids for your absence from the day trip to London Zoo/Alton Towers/the beach.

Replies (4)

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By mkowl
14th May 2024 09:56

It does seem increasingly hard to take time off, even one day. I took last Friday off to go to a gig, the accounting Gods obviously saw this as outrageous and gave me the "emails from hell" sort of day on Monday.

Thanks (1)
By Jimess
14th May 2024 10:47

This Easter bank holiday was the first I have not worked in more years than I care to remember, and that was extra special because I bolted it on to holiday time. As I get older and see family, friends, former work colleagues and older clients pass away or develop serious illnesses, it makes me more determined to get weekend and bank holiday time off whenever I can. The biggest shock was the death of a lifelong friend last year after a relatively short battle with cancer. That really made me see that I had to make time for my family and friends. I now question whether I really need to spend the weekend/bank holiday behind my desk or has it just become a habit because I have done it for so long. After 48 years working full time in the profession I think I deserve a bit of garden time and I will have to manage client expectations accordingly.

Thanks (1)
By Hazel Accounts
14th May 2024 11:38

Not sure I agree (with the article) - my client's don't expect me to work on bank holidays or weekends. Sometimes I do as my own choice but I always stack up any emails on delayed send to go the next working day.

Thanks (2)
By Jason Croke
14th May 2024 14:34

Try and visit the Any Answers page here at AccoutingWeb.

A high number of chancers asking complex tax questions or wanting to know how to DIY file their own tax returns and most of them post at the weekend and their excuse is "my accountant is on holiday but I absolutely need to know if this cost can be capitalised or subject to CGT relief, even though the return doesn't need filing until 2025 I must know now and cannot wait until my Accountant returns".

In other words "I've not got an Accountant but if I pretend I have one then I might get an answer, even though my asking urgently on Sunday evening sort of comes across as how little I respect my alleged Accountant, but any free advice so I can continue being a cheapskate is much appreciated".

If we're replying to clients at the weekend then that is the bed we make for ourselves and we must lay in it, or, set the relationship terms at the start and clients will not mind if you aren't replying within seven seconds on a Saturday afternoon.

Thanks (3)