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Love is in the air… but should Valentine’s Day be a national holiday?

13 February 2023 5 min read

Valentine's Day

For some Valentine’s Day is a chance to remind a loved one how special they are with a romantic gesture, for others it’s a commercialised marketing ploy, and for those who are single, it’s a day that doesn’t hold much significance… but whether you’re single or taken, should Valentine’s Day be a national holiday?

What is Valentine’s Day?

The true origin of Valentine’s Day remains a mystery, but it is believed to have began in a culmination of Roman and Christian tradition and symbolism as early as the 5th century. The Roman festival of Lupercalia was a celebration of the arrival of spring and, held in mid-February, celebrated agriculture and fertility. The festival was then transformed into something else entirely by Pope Gelasius I, who declared the 14th February as Saint Valentine’s Day. Who exactly St. Valentine was however, and whether it was one person or several, remains disputed.

The modern Valentine’s Day that we know, one which celebrates romance, did not begin until the 14th century when the first formal messages and declarations of love started to appear. In the UK, Valentine’s Day became more commercial during the Victorian era, where people would send valentines to one another as well as flowers and other gifts.

Valentine's Day

Why isn’t it a national holiday?

Valentine’s Day is similar to Halloween – a day that is recognised and celebrated throughout many countries, but is not an official holiday. This is because it is not a commemorative day to mark a significant event or figure, and while it has its roots in traditional religious celebration, its unclear beginnings and altered history mean it holds less significance as a religious day.

Do people book Valentine’s Day off work?

Valentine’s Day is always on 14th February, so the day changes from year to year, but it mostly falls on a typical working day of the week.

Around 76% of people in the UK celebrated Valentine’s Day in 2021. And recent data from GWI reveals that of all the ideal ways people would like to celebrate Valentine’s Day, 37% would like to mark it with a trip or holiday – the second most desirable activity behind going out to a restaurant.

The act of gift-giving has also dropped in recent years for some countries, including the UK, with just 18% of people saying they planned to buy a Valentine’s gift for someone in 2022. This suggests that people are looking to celebrate the day with an experience rather than the traditional gift of flowers or chocolates, so time off work to make that happen is an appealing option for many.

Valentine's Day national holiday

Employee engagement ideas for Valentine’s Day

While you may not wish to declare Valentine’s Day as a holiday, it is an opportunity to engage with employees, show appreciation and boost a positive work culture.

Workplace perks, whether it’s a team meal out, a few drinks after work, or choosing to finish the day half an hour earlier – there are plenty of small ways for employers to be creative on Valentine’s Day with a simple treat for your team.

You may also wish to consider the broader picture – the employee benefits packages you offer your team – and whether there is a health and wellbeing element to them. Many organisations offer benefits in the form of a subscription to mental health resources, a gym membership, health insurance and much more – you can find plenty of wellbeing benefits ideas here.

How to manage increased levels of leave requests around special days

If your organisation experiences an increase in the number of leave requests that come through from the team for days like Valentine’s Day, or other unofficial holidays like school half term for example, we’ve outlined a few tips below for how you can approach this:

  • Offer leave on a first come, first serve basis so that you can manage your resources more effectively during popular leave times. Make sure this is communicated clearly with your employees, such as in your absence management policy or employee handbook.
  • Set a maximum number of people who can be off from any one team or department. For example, if you have a development team of four, set guidance that at least one person needs to be in work if the other three have booked the day off.
  • Be inclusive – if you’re finding that many people are requesting time off on Valentine’s Day, don’t favour people in relationships and approve their holiday on that basis as a means of choosing who can take leave and who can’t.
  • Set a minimum notice period for requesting leave – you may want to communicate to employees that all leave requests should be made at least two or three weeks in advance. This can be left to line managers to choose their preference, or you can set this out in your absence management policy as a requirement.


Looking to track and manage your team’s absence and leave more efficiently? Book a demo to see edays in action

Georgina at edays
February 13, 2023

Georgina Mackintosh is an accomplished copywriter and marketing professional with a background that spans several industries. Her writing focuses on HR topics such as employee wellbeing, engagement and experience - as well as absence management best practice, how-to guides and news from the HR sector.