Money: Time off shouldn't be a privilege, but a right

A European court ruling could soon ensure that all British employees have three weeks' paid holiday. Ian Hunter reports

Not a lot of people know this, but employees in the UK don't actually have a legal right to any holidays at all. The good news, for these unfortunates, is that things are expected to change as the result of a decision in the European court.

Although statute does require employers to supply details of any holiday entitlement granted to employees, it does not impose an obligation to provide paid holiday. According to the TUC, the UK is the only member state of the European Union that does not provide such a right.

The European Working Time Directive, however, which among other things seeks to regulate the number of hours worked by employees, also includes a provision entitling employees to three weeks' paid holiday. This entitlement will extend to four weeks from November 1999.

Not surprisingly the British Government has argued that the Working Time directive constitutes part of the Social Chapter, from which it has opted out, and it is therefore not bound to implement the holiday provision.

It has, however, been successfully argued to date that the directive constitutes a health and safety measure which is not subject to an opt- out. This view was confirmed by the European Advocate General, M Philippe Leger in March this year.

His view is likely to be endorsed soon by the European Court, despite the objections of the British Government. If the European court supports the Advocate General's reasoning, the Government will be required to make the necessary changes to the law by 23 November.

The directive does not make clear whether the entitlement to initially three and eventually four weeks' paid leave includes statutory and public holidays. It does make clear, however, that payment can be made in lieu of holiday only on the termination of employment.

The directive does state that the right to paid holiday is subject to qualifying conditions prescribed by national law or practice. It is unclear precisely how this qualification may be interpreted.

In the same way that employees are not entitled to protection against unfair dismissal or to redundancy pay until they have been employed continuously for two years, it is also possible that the Government may seek to introduce conditions, such as a minimum qualifying period of service, which an employee must accrue before he or she can take advantage of the holiday provisions set out in the directive.

A condition of this type may prejudice contract and part-time, workers however. In recent times part-time workers have succeeded in obtaining the same protection against unfair dismissal as their full-time colleagues. They have also secured the right to participate in their employer's pension scheme.

The argument by which these rights have been secured is that, as the majority of part-time employees are female, provisions aimed at restricting certain benefits and statutory safeguards to full-time employees are discriminatory. It is likely that the same arguments would be put forward to defeat any attempt to exclude part-time workers from the right to holiday if the same right is extended to full-time workers.

Qualifying periods have also been under attack recently. The two-year qualifying required before a claim for unfair dismissal can be brought is presently being reviewed by the House of Lords, on the basis that its length discriminates against women. The House's decision may affect the length of any qualifying period that the Government may seek to impose in relation to holiday entitlement.

If the European court finds against it on the two-year qualifying period for protection against unfair dismissal, the Government is likely to ask for additional time, to enable it to get its legislative house in order.

The directive will not take effect in relation to private-sector workers until the necessary UK legislation is in place. Public-sector workers would, by contrast, have an immediately enforceable right to holiday.

Employees who are not paid holiday pay owing to them can sue for breach of contract in the courts. These claims will usually be heard by the small claims' court which has the jurisdiction to hear claims of up to pounds 3,000.

The alternative is to submit a Wages Act claim in the industrial tribunal. Wages Act claims must be submitted within three months of the date on which it is claimed that the employer failed to make the necessary payments. Contractual claims made in the courts, by contrast, can be pursued up to six years later.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Morrissey pictured in 2013
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Sell it with flowers: competition is 'intense' for homes with outside spaces

Gardens add a tenth to the value of your home

A London estate agent yesterday put a price on having a garden. David Pollock of Greene & Co reckons it can increase a property's value by a tenth.

Spectators at the Isle of Wight music festival watch the World Cup on the big screen. Betting promotions were a feature of the tournament
Lenders have been accused of persuading vulnerable people to borrow expensive credit

Payday loan firms accused of bombarding vulnerable people with nuisance phone calls

Payday loan firms have been accused of bombarding financially vulnerable people with nuisance phone calls, after a debt charity reported that a third of its clients were plagued by the messages.

The foundation proposed that the Government sets up a scheme to help people avoid losing their homes

Mortgages: 'Homeowners could trade down to shared ownership to defuse rate rise timebomb'

A plan to defuse a “mortgage debt timebomb” when interest rates rise is published today amid warnings that 2.3m households could struggle with their repayments.

Current accounts are too costly and confusing, says CMA as it announces investigation into Britain's biggest banks

Competition regulator to investigate market where it's hard for customers to make comparisons and the big banks' charges can be set too high
All the signs have been pointing up for buy-to-let, but there are clouds on the horizon

Buy-to-let: is it a boom or a bubble fit to burst?

People borrowing to be landlords could face the same restrictions as homebuyers, with MPs voicing fears that property speculation may be overheating the market

Moment of truth for payday lenders: Watchdog plans to curb cost of short-term loans

The chief of the City watchdog, Martin Wheatley, spoke exclusively to The Independent's Simon Read about its attempts to control the worst excesses of unscrupulous high-cost credit companies

Consumers given power to choose a green deal

How would you like to be able to choose how your electricity is made and even where it come from? It may sound futuristic and fanciful but the independent supplier Co-operative Energy has made it a reality this week.

'Scrap the trap': calls for change grow as banks are told to play fair with loyal savers

City regulator says existing customers suffer worst rates

Motor insurers divided on proposals for whiplash ban

MPs want medical evidence for claims. Will this bring higher premiums?

British Gas repays £1m for mis-sold deals

British Gas was yesterday forced to pay back £1m to its customers after mis-selling them energy deals.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

    £200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

    Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

    Operations Engineer (Redhat, UNIX, Solaris, Data Centre, Cisco)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Operations Engineer (Redhat, UNIX, Solaris, Data...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices