May Day may have associations with dancing around the maypole in the UK but May 1st is also International Workers’ Day, a celebration of workers’ rights, where trade unionists come together to show solidarity with working people.

The origins of May Day go back to the 19th century when socialist leaders called for an eight-hour working day and an international day of protest at the start of May. 300,000 people demonstrated in Hyde Park.

The introduction of eight hours as the benchmark for a working day was seen as a major breakthrough for workers’ rights and a key moment in the development of health and safety policies. Until then employees had worked up to 16 hours a day which maximised profit for the employer, but was often to the detriment of the workers’ health.

May Day has continued to be a focal point for campaigns for employment rights and is celebrated every year with events across the world.

May Day was made a bank holiday in the UK by the Labour government of 1978. When in 2011 the Conservative party announced that it was considering removing it from the national calendar, there was a public outcry.

Stephen Cavalier, chief executive of Thompsons Solicitors, said, “Thompsons has a long and successful history of championing workers’ rights. That remains at the very heart of what we do.

“May Day is an important day for workers. A celebration. But also a reminder of past struggles and the continuing fight for justice for working people, nationally and internationally. Here, the Tories and Lib Dems are intent on attacking the rights of people at work, denying justice to those who have been sacked, discriminated against or injured at work.

“May Day reminds us what we are fighting for. And who we are fighting against.”