[HISTORY] Should we give everyone a holiday with pay?

Some workers enjoying a holiday with pay
Numéro 1

Learn the ropes

What is holiday with pay?
In French, the word ‘work’ translates into ‘travail’, deriving from latin ‘tripalium’, a tool of torture. Holidays are the period of freedom spent away from work, usually away from home too.
Nowadays, many countries have granted their citizens with some amount of weeks of holiday per year. Those are mostly paid, meaning that your employer pays your wage as if you were working. Some holidays are also related to certain situations, such as maternity leave, sick leave…
How did we come to get a holiday with pay?
The concept appeared along with the industrial revolution, as more and more work relationships became those of ’employer-employee’. The first trade-unions are created at the end of the 19th century, but their revendiations focus mostly on working conditions and daily working time. Only in the beginning of the 20th century do they start demanding a holiday with pay.
A fake debate?
The concept of a holiday with pay is widely accepted, as the tribunes below will show. The measure only sparks little debate, and most western countries have adopted it when World War 2 starts. However, the golden age of tourism will only begin after the war, with the dawn of the consumer society.

Numéro 2

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The idea behind the Rift is simple: for each topic of debate, we provide you with an expertise based on a pro-con approach, written by competent and legitimate experts. We want to help you make your own opinion, and guide you on first steps to civic engagement.


Everyone wants a holiday with pay

ernest brown minister of labour united kingdom

Ernest Brown

Minister of Labour in 1935-1940, United Kingdom

[ The Road Haulage (Wages) Bill ] prove to be a landmark in our industrial history, for the reason that for the first time holiday remuneration was made a matter of statutory provision. To-day we reach another landmark, for while the scope of the Bill is limited, it gives permission and power to certain authorities to fix holidays and holiday pay. […] That, of course, is the unanimous recommendation of the very powerful Amulree Committee. Holidays with pay will, therefore, become a legal reality. There is wide agreement in the House that holidays for our workers are desirable and necessary. Members on all sides are convinced of their value, both from the point of view of the individual worker and from that of the general welfare of industry. An annual holiday adds greatly to the health of the worker and his family, and this in turn is reflected in his attitude to his job. An increase in the wellbeing of the individual worker means an increase in the efficiency of the industry, and this in its turn means an increase in our general wellbeing.

We all know with what eagerness we look forward to our own holidays, and how, after the holiday is over, we return to our task with renewed vigour and energy. We all desire workpeople of all grades to know the joys of a holiday as we know them ourselves. It is vital that not only should they have holidays, but holidays with pay. The good effect of a holiday to the worker is largely lost during his holiday period if he receives no pay. That is especially the case with the lower paid workers, for they cannot afford to have a holiday if they receive no pay for it. We know that many workers save week by week from their earnings in order to enjoy the fruits of holidays. […] Nevertheless, there are many who find it impossible to save because their earnings are only just sufficient to keep themselves and their families, or because of expenses caused by illness or spells of unemployment or short time. In those cases payment for the holiday is essential if the worker is to get full value for it.[…]

On the basis of this estimate there must be over 8,000,000 workpeople getting holidays with pay, out of 18,500,000. That margin of 10,000,000 shows the field which there is to be covered. These figures show that very remarkable progress has been made towards what every Member of the House desires. […]

Evidence was taken from all the major industrial and commercial bodies concerned and other bodies interested, and the committee issued a unanimous report in April of this year. […] 

The honourable Member will understand that in the working of industrial relations in this country, and in collective agreements, both sides in industry in turn, and sometimes together, have found the work of the Ministry of Labour invaluable on occasions when an impartial view was wanted about a particular matter. […]

It is felt that this will serve as a source of information to those firms which are contemplating the introduction of paid holidays and enable them to see the way in which the problem has been tackled and difficulties overcome. […]

The Amulree Committee strongly recommend the establishment of an annual holiday with pay for industrial and kindred workers as part of the terms of the contract of employment. […]

I am sure that the House will agree that the Bill is a timely and welcome one. There has been no period in history when holidays were so necessary. There are no people who need them more than the strenuous folk in these islands. Our cities are vast and crowded and we all need the fresh air, the sunshine, the quiet winds and the sudden squalls which are our heritage. We live at too great a speed. We live more rapidly than men have ever lived before, although it was a Greek playwright who pointed the aphorism in his day: Whirl is king, having driven out Zeus. So the problem of speed was known to the ancient Greeks. […]

Regular summer holidays give ordinary folk the one fine and gracious opportunity to rest and be quiet if they so desire. […] The Bill has meaning for the countryman who may desire a chance to explore the treasures and opportunities to be found in all our towns and cities to come to London, the wonder city of the world. […]

It is very wonderful in these islands how, when things are put to practical discussion, we find a way of doing the things which the majority of the residents of our islands desire to do. I could have wished that this power had come a little earlier and then some of the countrymen in Scotland and in some parts of England might not only have come to London, but have gone to Glasgow, as most of us will, to look at the Empire Exhibition which is there to be seen until 8th October.


Holiday with pay might upset our industries

capitain austin hudson

Captain Austin Hudson

Member of Parliament, Conservative Party, United Kingdom

I beg […] to add […] the words “this House declines to proceed with a Bill which materially affects every phase of industry, agriculture, and commerce, which interferes with the long-established custom of employers and employed to settle conditions in their own industries, and which is consequently of so far-reaching a character that this House should not entertain it unless it is presented by a Government which is in a position, after full consultation with all interests concerned, to give the House authoritative information on the cost and effects of the proposal and the measure of agreement thereon throughout the industries affected”. […]

We who oppose this Bill are not doing so because the Bill is bad in principle, but because in our opinion it is quite unworkable. We hold that if you try, by means of this Bill, to bring about an annual holiday you will so upset industry as to do more harm than good.

It is all very well […] to show that many industries have themselves instituted an annual holiday, but that argument can be used in two ways. The honourable Member says that it proves that the time has come for the Government to take action to establish an annual holiday in those other industries which have not been so fortunate. On the other hand, if by mutual agreement within certain industries, they have been able to establish an annual holiday, would it not be much better for the other industries to go on the same lines and achieve the annual holiday by agreement thereby avoiding the disorganisation which is bound to arise from Government action of the kind suggested?

Another reason for our opposition is that the effect of this Bill will be felt right up and down the country and some industries will be very seriously affected indeed. […] It is also bound to affect in a certain degree individual Members of this House, but I should like to make it quite clear that, as far as I am concerned, it makes not the slightest difference to me in my private capacity whether the Bill is passed or not. I am a director of a family business, in which we give every employé a fortnight’s holiday with pay, and to the majority three weeks holiday. We do so because we can afford it, and because the industry is able to work such an arrangement without being thrown completely out of joint. Other industries, not so fortunately placed, may not be in a position to do that.

The intention […] is admirable but I think the results are problematical, if not actually dangerous. […] I am certain that we are moving towards a universal holiday—a holiday for all workers in this country—and I do not believe a single Member of the House is against that idea but on the other hand I do not believe that this Bill is going to bring that idea to fruition. The Bill has caused serious alarm to industrialists who employ enormous masses of people. Last night I was speaking to some employers of labour and they told me that, if passed in its present form, the Bill is going to affect very seriously their industries in various ways. The very last thing we want to do at the present time when unemployment is going up every week, is to disorganise industry or to make another of those gestures which are so terribly unsettling to industry and which may cause even more unemployment than we have at present. […]

The third point in our reasoned Amendment is that the fullest possible information should be obtained before anything is done in this direction, and I do not mean, […] information as regards foreign countries, because the conditions in foreign countries are entirely different. Very often their wages are completely different, their standard of living is different, and their hours of work are different, but we want to know exactly how this would be brought into effect and exactly what the effect on the different industries would be. […] Lastly, we want, after a conference with every body concerned, to decide which is the best way to bring an annual holiday of eight days or six days, whichever it may be, to the workers of this country, because everybody in this House is agreed that it would be the best thing possible if it could be done; but, on the other hand, we on this side are very doubtful if this Bill is the way to do it.

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