Martin Hannan: Give us back our Leap Day!

Share this article
Have your say

What have you got planned for tomorrow? Unless you are one of those frustrated spinsters who is set to take unilateral betrothal action, you’re probably going to have a normal day.

For most of us that will mean going to work, and frankly that has always seemed wrong to me. For February 29 in a Leap Year is the day that proves that capitalism and governments only care about profit and taxes and that workers really are mere chattels.

Leap Day is the big unsaid crime of capitalist society. It’s the day when the fat cats steal a day off the workers, because most employees work an extra day with nary a complaint. Governments love it, because it means an extra day’s tax and VAT income, and when you’re as broke as most countries, that is not a small consideration.

Even if Leap Day falls on a weekend, there will usually still be an extra working day in a leap year. If your salary is calculated annually or monthly rather than by actual amount of hours worked, then every four years you work an extra day, usually without extra pay.

Very few companies, if any, and no public sector bodies adjust contracts and salaries to take account of the extra day that employees work, and those people whose pensions are calculated on so many 365ths of their salary never get compensation for the Leap Day.

The argument is that Leap Day is just part of the Gregorian calendar solar cycle anomaly to take account of the fact that Earth’s year – the time we take to complete a revolution of the sun – actually lasts 365.25 days. It’s slightly less than that, in fact, which is why we don’t have leap years in three out of four “century” years – the year 2000 was a leap year, but 1900 wasn’t, and 2100 won’t be.

Those who don’t think about Leap Day just accept it and never question why that extra day has to be spent working. OK, so we all “owe” the calendar an extra day every four years, but do we also owe it to the boss class?

Let’s reverse the argument – you usually get paid for a year that consists of 365 days, so every four years, should you not be paid for 366?

Still, it could be worse. If your life was lived according to the Chinese calendar, you would have to deal with a leap month which is added every few years to keep pace with the solar cycle.

The Islamic calendar has no leap days, and I have no idea how they handle the solar cycle anomaly, but it doesn’t seem to discomfit Muslims who follow their calendar.

It’s just Western capitalism with its leap year inspired by Julius Caesar and confirmed by Pope Gregory XIII in the 16th century, which makes the extra Leap Day a burden on the workers.

Now you may think what is he rambling on about, and why doesn’t he just accept the fact that every four years we have to work an extra day?

Normally I do, but this year is very different. This year is the Diamond Jubilee of our own dear Queen, and I am delighted that the UK Government has decreed an extra bank holiday – note those words – and moved the late May bank holiday so that we can have an extended weekend of celebration on June 2, 3, 4 and 5.

You will note that the Government only allowed an extra bank holiday. The Diamond Jubilee bank holiday on Tuesday, June 5 is NOT a full public holiday such as Christmas Day and Good Friday.

Most employers are giving their staff the day off, or allowing those who work that day to take another day’s holiday and be paid for it as per a normal bank holiday. That is what the Government intended, though they should have legally made it a public holiday to make sure.

Yet there are businesses and public sector organisations across Britain which will not give their staff the day off and will also not be giving them paid time off on another day. Because it’s a bank holiday and not a public holiday, companies and even some NHS trusts are insisting on working to contract, that leave should be taken out of normal holiday entitlement, and that no overtime will be paid to those forced to work on June 5.

The most high-profile firm to take this course is Edinburgh Woollen Mill and the GMB union has taken them to task. The company has just taken over the collapsed Peacocks chain, so they have the excuse that they need every hand to the tiller, but it still rankles.

To make people work on the Diamond Jubilee holiday – let’s face it, there’s only ever been two of them in UK history – or not make some compensatory arrangement for workers is immoral, repugnant, and ultimately self-defeating as staff morale will unquestionably be damaged.

Most of all in this Leap Year with its extra working day, denying workers the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee bank holiday is utterly and completely unfair and an insult to Her Majesty.