Twelfth fortnight shutdown 'thing of the past' with firms taking more flexible stance
The business sector in Northern Ireland is no longer observing the traditional 'Twelfth fortnight' shutdown - although many employees are still opting to take the time off, it's been claimed.
Andrew Webb, chief economist at business advisory firm Grant Thornton, said the business world had moved away from a shutdown over the Twelfth.
And for construction firms, 2019 will be the second year in a row in which an industry body has recommended stoppages for just two days - Friday, July 12 and Monday, July 15.
However, Mr Webb said that people were still in the habit of booking their holidays over the first two weeks of July, regardless of company policy on stoppages.
And with many offices giving their staff both the public holidays of July 12 and July 15 off, he said it was a wise move as staff only need to take eight days of annual leave to get a full two weeks off.
A spokesman for Harland and Wolff confirmed it will close on Friday, July 12, with no weekend shifts, but reopens on July 15.
However, aerospace company Bombardier said it will close from tomorrow and reopen on July 15.
And Moy Park, Northern Ireland's biggest private sector employer, said it remained open all year - closing only on Christmas Day.
It's understood generator manufacturer Caterpillar will cease production at its Larne site from Monday to Friday next week.
Meanwhile, quarry equipment manufacturer Terex in Co Tyrone - which is owned by a US corporation - said it would only close on July 12 as it's a statutory public holiday. However, it added that it took a two-week shutdown in August.
Tobermore, a paving company in Co Londonderry, said it opened on the Twelfth and had no summer shutdown.
Meanwhile, dairy co-operative Dale Farm said its production facilities were open all year round.
Newry company MJM Marine said it closed on July 11 and 12 but that due to work commitments, some of its staff would still be coming in.
Mr Webb said that even though companies were staying open during July, a quietness had descended on Belfast.
"The economy does slow down during this period, even a lunchtime walk through Belfast city centre reveals a noticeably quieter place," he said.
"While tourists appear plentiful, office workers appear in shorter supply.
"So, while the Twelfth brings a slowdown in activity here, the traditional shutdown is a thing of the past and tourists coming in are offsetting some of the local exodus."
Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: "July remains a significant holiday period for Northern Ireland with many locals going on holiday both within NI and abroad.
"However with the growth of tourism we are also beginning to see an increase in out of state visitors during the same period.
"With the majority of our hospitality businesses opening as usual, trading does see geographical shifts to our key local holiday destinations and around major events."
The Construction Employers Federation (CEF) industry body announced in 2017 that it was ending the 50-year tradition of observing the Twelfth fortnight as an annual holiday.
And Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, said the concept of the Twelfth fortnight had died out in the manufacturing sector around three decades ago.
"There's been a big shift over recent years where very few places actually close down completely over the Twelfth," he said.
"But it was never really uniform all across NI. For example, in Derry the holiday period was the last week in July and the first in August.
"There are a number of firms who do still close down for a holiday period, but it's less of a thing now. And even where places did close down, they usually continued to have some staff in to carry out work," he said.
The Joint Council for the Building and Civil Engineering Industry (NI) formerly had a policy of 29 fixed days off for brickies, labourers and other members of the construction trade. But from last year, it started observing just 18 fixed days and 12 flexible days, including the Twelfth and 13th.