What do bank holidays mean to working Brits in 2018?

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In the wake of the Royal Wedding and England's World Cup exploits many English people, are on an all time high of patriotism. Others, like myself had little interest in either affair beyond the prospect of another bank holiday. One was suggested to commemorate the Royal Wedding. Followed by a suggestion that if England won the World Cup it should also lead to a new bank holiday being introduced. Due to the wedding falling on a Saturday and the left foot of Mario Mandžukić, neither came to fruition. Bank holidays themselves though, throw up interesting questions about the U.K. workforce’s relationship with the state, the importance of tradition and the landscape of modern employment. In 2018 the traditional contracted 9-5 is not necessarily the default means of self sustenance, particularly for young people.

I myself have a lot of experience with the pitfalls and advantages of part time and non-contractual work. Whilst studying at university I worked retail jobs as well as freelancing as a photographer and subsequently work as a photographer now. The pros and cons of a sporadic work schedule are too boundless to firmly claim whether it would holistically be better or worse than a 9-5. Two examples are that on the one hand: 0-hour flexible contracts can be great for students who need to balance studying with supporting themselves. On the other hand, within the fashion industry a lot of “opportunities” are only attainable subsequent to unpaid internships. Essentially forcing out anyone who isn’t; from London or the surrounding areas, with enough disposable income to be able to work for nothing. 

Whilst I saw the benefits of being able to work on terms that accommodated me whilst studying, to hopefully breakthrough in to the fashion industry, the same laissez-faire regulation of employment was arguably to blame for the industry that awaited me. One that was a cesspit of exploitation and economic gate-keeping. My own early experience of the working world in modern Britain was one story out a countless number of people trying to adapt to navigating employment in 2018. So I decided to get my camera out and talk to some of them.



Ashley, 24, business owner

Q:What do you do?

Ashley: Online clothing sales, business owner at Hunts Emporia

Q:What are your working hours?

Ashley: I try to do 9-5, it’s 7 days a week at the moment, quite varied

Q: What are the pros and cons of having predetermined work hours?

Ashley: It’s quite unsociable, a lot of the time I can’t do social stuff if work isn’t done. Because my work’s attached to my name it’s like my baby in the sense that my reputation is synonymous with the business’ reputation

Q:Do you think your working situation impacts your employment rights?

Ashley: No because it’s my business because so it’s essentially my choice. If I was working for a company the amount of hours I’m doing would definitely be illegal but because it’s my choice I can do it if I want.

Q: Do you know why we have bank holidays in this country?

Ashley: No not at all

Q: What do bank holidays mean to you? 

Ashley: Going out, although now I work for myself it doesn’t really mean anything because I have to work whenever I have the opportunity

Q: How do you plan to spend your next bank holiday?

Ashley: I’m having pop-up event with a local store, although I still have to work.


@huntsemporia


James, 26, assistant manager at clothes shop

Q: What do you do? 

James: Assistant manager

Q: What are your working hours? 

James: 40 hours and 9:30 until 18:00 typically but it varies

Q: What are the pros and cons of not having predetermined work hours? 

James: You can't really plan stuff outside of work. That's the only major point

Q: Do you think your working situation impacts your employment rights?

James: No

Q: Do you know why we have bank holidays?

A: You know what, I actually don't 

Q: What do bank holidays mean to you? 

James: Just another day 

Q: How do you plan to spend your next bank holiday?

Working 


@james_howie48 / @street_garment

Brandon, 19, illustrator

Q: What do you do?

Brandon: Illustrator

Q: What are your working hours?
Brandon: As long as the individual commission takes. It’s all depending on the job
Q: What are the pros and cons of not having predetermined work hours?
Brandon: Pros are that it can leave you with space to be inspired as well as a more flexible routine and you can do the work when you want. Cons are that work isn’t always guaranteed so less reliable income and less reliable clientele.
Q: Do you think your working situation impacts your employment rights?
Brandon: Yeah with a contractual 9:00-17:00  job you have more reassurance and peace of mind of steady income. It’s also seen as a more solid concrete job
Q: Do you know why we have bank holidays?
Brandon: It’s something to do with employment isn’t it?

Q: What do bank holidays mean to you?

Brandon: Extra day to do what you freely wanna do. There’s usually more people out when socialising. On the other hand it fucks up bus times

Q: How do you plan to spend your next bank holiday?
Probably going out, it depends on the weather.


@brandonmorrisart



Daisy, 19, stripper

Q:What do you do? 

Daisy: Stripper

Q: What are your working hours? 

Daisy: We've got until 3'clock but you can go in whenever. Sometimes you'll get a text saying you're due in but it’s your choice because there’s so many other girls

Q: What are the pros and cons of not having predetermined work hours? 

Daisy: Pros are that if you're busy you can let them know and there's always girls there. Cons; it's really bad in the week and you can't be reliant on money and there’s competition with the other girls so if you’re not getting the dances you’re not getting the money

Q: Do you think your working situation impacts your employment rights?

Daisy: In some ways yes because in some situations the managers won't take the girls as seriously as if it was a normal job. The management can be too laid back with regards to how customers treat you but not vice versa

Q: Do you know why we have bank holidays?

Daisy: No, I actually don't 

Q: What do bank holidays mean to you? 

Daisy: Relaxation and eating a lot 

Q: How do you plan to spend your next bank holiday?

Daisy: Seeing my friends in London 


@daisocleo


Gamaliel, 52, human resources

.Q: What do you do?

Gamaliel: Human Resources amongst other things

Q: What are your working hours?
Gamaliel: I try to keep normal working hours although I’m more flexible and try to align my times with clients who might not be in the same time zone
Q: What are the pros and cons of having predetermined work hours?
Gamaliel: The most important single benefit is that you’re flexible and I can’t find any down side. Yes, predetermined hours and working for someone means a steady income but that’s not always better
Q: Do you think your working situation impacts your employment rights?

Gamaliel: Not particularly as I work from home and don’t really have staff per se. The consultants I use take care of their tax and employment rights issues. Most of our engagements are short as well
Q: Do you know why we have bank holidays in this country?
Gamaliel: I think it’s to celebrate worker’s rights
Q: What do bank holidays mean to you? 

Gamaliel: Not much, as in some cases they actually impact negatively on my work schedule
Q: How do you plan to spend your next bank holiday?
Gamaliel: I don’t have a special plan so will relax at home like most people but if duty calls I will attend


Keenan, 23, bartender

Q: What do you do? 

Keenan: Bartender

Q: What are your working hours? 

Keenan: Anything from 10:00 - 3:00 and anything from 30 to 45 per week

Q: What are the pros and cons of not having predetermined work hours? 

Keenan: Cons, you never know what you're going to get every week in terms of pay and hours. It can be quite flexible at times in terms of swapping shifts etc though

Q: Do you think your working situation impacts your employment rights?

Keenan: Yes; I'm not really on a contract so they could get rid of me at any time 

Q: Do you know why we have bank holidays?

Keenan: No I don't actually, no idea

Q: What do bank holidays mean to you? 

Keenan: For me it means longer hours and more working. Last bank holiday was a 12 hour shift 

Q: How do you plan to spend your next bank holiday?

Keenan: Working, that's the thing with bars you don't get them off 


@keenanlguthrie



Richie, 24, sales assistant

Q: What do you do? .

Richie: Classed as "crew" basically shop floor and sales really 

Q: What are your working hours? 

Richie: Usually 20-25 hours a week

Q: What are the pros and cons of not having predetermined work hours? 

Richie: The cons are that it's hard to plan things when you don't know what hours you're getting. With my training it's hard to train a consistent amount of hours per week. And pros are you get different hours every week so you're able to use them for different things. With my training though it does give me time to arrange my training and massages around my hours 

Q: Do you think your working situation impacts your employment rights?

Richie: I don't think so no 

Q: Do you know why we have bank holidays?

Richie: Some days are for certain celebrations aren't they? To be honest mate I couldn't actually tell you. Maybe to give the general public a break? I would assume it's to do with the British traditions and religious days 

Q: What do bank holidays mean to you? 

Richie: For people that work full time hours it does give you a break. I used to work full time and it's a refresher day really and spend time with your family and girlfriend etc 

Q: How do you plan to spend your next bank holiday?

Richie: I'll spend it with family 


@richiesmitham / @street_garment


Marcel, 21, waiter

Q: What do you do? 

Marcel: Waiter technically, normally they just say working the floor 

Q: What are your working hours? 

Marcel: About 16 hours a week and flexible days 

Q: What are the pros and cons of not having predetermined work hours? 

You're never too busy so the flexibility is good. The downside is sometimes you don't get as many hours as you want. You can cover people’s shifts sometimes but if there isn't any to cover there's nothing you can do 

Q: Do you think your working situation impacts your employment rights?

Not really, I wouldn't think so. Everyone's friendly so they wouldn't just get rid of you for no reason. If you're giving bad service they'd be within their rights to discipline you but they wouldn't for no reason 

Q: Do you know why we have bank holidays?

Marcel: No, I thought it was celebrating, well not exactly celebrating, but the royal wedding for example. I know they wanna keep it because of tradition 

Q: What do bank holidays mean to you? 

Marcel: Day off work 

Q: How do you plan to spend your next bank holiday? 

Marcel: I don't know, probably sleeping 


@ma_se_110 / https://soundcloud.com/dead-flex

Photographing and interviewing people for this article revealed a few things. The first is that from bartenders to business owners and from strippers to sales assistants one thing that unifies the workforce is that people don’t seem to have a firm conception of why we have bank holidays in this country. Contrary to what most people might think, given the euphoria a long weekend can give, Britain really isn’t big on public holidays. We actually have the second least in the entire world after Mexico and there’s only one day in it. The actual origin on the bank holiday is an Act or Parliament in 1871 spearheaded by Sir John Lubbock, who essentially wanted days off work to coincide with watching cricket. Though not a fan of cricket myself I strangely respect the idea of passing an act of parliament for such an arbitrary reason.

Another notable point is the sense of uncertainty and lack of bargaining power non-contractual jobs bring across all fields. Whilst one of the legal stipulations for differentiating an employee from an independent contractor is the lack of mutuality of obligation, there shouldn’t need to be a legal obligation to take strippers seriously as people - or to ensure bartenders feel confident that they have some level of job security that isn't subject to the whims of management, for example.

Bank holidays tie in with this interestingly as they serve as a cultural representation of workers and workers rights throughout the ages. Long after the age of Sir John Lubbock bank holidays shifted from being attached to patron saints to being linked to International Workers Day. Over the course of the last few hundred years Britain has gone from being economically supported by agriculture, to factories, to the present age where selling clothes from your bedroom is a viable career path if you do the appropriate research in to how to make it a business. The working world has and will continue to change and it is crucial that legislation as well as public attitudes evolve at the same pace. The ever presence of bank holidays throughout a constantly changing employment landscape should remind us all that being an über driver, sales assistant, artist or tradesman doesn’t make you any less entitled to the respect and fair working conditions we all deserve.

Words and photography by Martyn Ewoma. See more from Martyn here

 


 

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