Unravelling the complications of a new public holiday

Mary Connaughton, Director, CIPD Ireland

There was good news for employees earlier this year, with the announcement of an extra public holiday In Ireland on 18 March 2022, along with a new annual public holiday for Imbolc/St. Brigid’s Day (01 February) in future years. The 2022 public holiday is in recognition of the efforts of the public, volunteers and workers during the pandemic, and in remembrance of people who died due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The actual day of remembrance and recognition will take place over St. Patrick’s weekend. 

The new permanent public holiday starting in 2023 will celebrate Imbolc/St. Brigid’s Day, generally on the first Monday in February. However, the government plans to add further complexity to Ireland’s already complicated working time regulations.  While normally the new public holiday will be on the first Monday of February, there will be an exception whenever Imbolc/St. Brigid’s Day falls on a Friday, in which case Friday 01 February will be the public holiday.  


Public holiday payroll and administration considerations 

While it’s good to be able to extend St. Patrick's Day to a long weekend, an additional public holiday adds payroll costs and administration for employers, alongside any loss of revenue associated with closing for the day. The day has implications for resourcing as decisions need be made whether the business will remain open or close on the day.  

A public holiday does not force a business to close. All employees have an entitlement to benefit from one of the following options:  

  • a paid day off on the day, or 
  • an extra day’s leave within a month, or 
  • an extra day’s annual leave, or 
  • an extra day's pay. 

Employers need to make their decisions on what suits their business and then communicate their plans to employees in advance of the day. Part-time employees need specific attention as their entitlement relates to the operation of their normal weekly working arrangements. 


Supporting a commemoration and bereavement 

March 18, alongside being a public holiday, is associated with the commemoration of those lost through COVID-19. Therefore, employers and employees alike need to be there to support those who are grieving for a lost colleague, friend or family member, and also consider the many others who were bereaved in the last two years and did not have the opportunity to fully commemorate their loved ones. 

As this could be a tough time for many, we are encouraging employers to put bereavement supports in place. CIPD’s Guide to compassionate bereavement support for the people profession and managers is publicly available to help with this. 

Consider how your organisation can support those who are grieving in their workplace. We recommend that employers communicate their recognition of the national commemorative day and that they are encouraging employees to talk about their loved ones and draw on the supports available.  


Many large employers have employee assistance programmes, but this is not often the first port of call for a person who is grieving.  What colleagues have missed over the past two years is the unplanned conversations where they get informal emotional and mental health support from colleagues and managers alike.  We encourage employers to call this out in the coming weeks so people get support to have these conversations in the lead up to the public holiday. This will need particular attention where a colleague in the workplace passed away. 

It may also be a good time to bring people together on site in a way that hasn't happened over the past two years. Having a town hall to talk about the business, the role of the workplace in providing emotional and social support for each other, and the bereavement supports available would be a very compassionate and positive move to build in trust and demonstrate the organisation’s culture. 

Imbolc/St. Brigid’s Day  

In 2023 we will celebrate the new public holiday. St. Brigid's feast day,Lá Fhéile Bríde, is on 01 February, and originally a festival called Imbolc marking the beginning of Spring. It will be the first Irish public holiday to be named after a woman. 

Saint Brigid of Kildare (c. 451 – 525) is the patroness saint (or 'mother saint') of Ireland, and one of our three national saints along with Patrick and Columba. She is known for founding several convents of nuns, most notably that of Kildare. She is patroness of many things, including poetry, learning, healing, protection, blacksmithing, livestock and dairy production.   

We will have to adjust to working with the oddity that the public holiday will be the first Monday in February except whenever Imbolc/St. Brigid’s Day falls on a Friday, in which case Friday 01 February will be the public holiday. Sources indicate that this could first happen in 2030, so hold onto that thought for the next eight years! 

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