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Holidays are coming – for freelancers and short-term contract holders


A change in UK law relating to holiday entitlement is likely following an European Court of Justice ruling in Luxembourg which grants paid holidays to millions who have not had them.

The Luxembourg court declared that UK rules requiring workers to be continuously employed for at least thirteen weeks by the same employer before being entitled to paid holidays was illegal, breaching EU Working Time Directives.

Members of the Court today, (Monday June 26), accepted an opinion issued in February by the Advocate General of the ECJ which stated that the European Working Time Directive precludes national governments from excluding groups of workers from the rights that the directive gives them.

Under legislation introduced in 1998, the UK government excludes employees from accruing their rights to paid annual leave under the Working Time regulations until they have completed a qualifying period of employment of 13 weeks with their employer.

The result is that hundreds of thousands of workers previously denied paid leave will now benefit. The ruling is likely to affect college and university lecturing staff, cleaners, media workers, teachers. Additionally, many freelance workers working under longer term contracts may be expected to benefit.

The action was brought by broadcasting union Bectu representing sound recordists, cameramen, special effects technicians, projectionists, editors, researchers, hairdressers and make-up artists.

The union went to the High Court to have the UK rules annulled, and the High Court passed the case onto the ECJ.

It is still unclear to what extent workers are likely to claim back-pay for holidays permissable under EU law but denied by UK law.

UK Government Employment Relations Minister Alan Johnson today announced a consultation on amendments to the Working Time Regulations which will remove the qualifying period necessary to receive entitlement to paid annual leave.

Announcing the changes, Alan Johnson said, “The Government will be consulting urgently on draft regulations and guidance, which will bring the Working Time Regulations into line with the terms of this judgement.

“As part of the consultation we will be proposing a system of accrual in the first year of employment, providing one-twelfth of the annual entitlement in each month, rounded to the nearest full day. This would mean that a full time employee could take 2 days after one month.”

TUC General Secretary, John Monks said, “I very much welcome this rapid recognition that this loophole must be closed. Unscrupulous employers have been deliberately taking people on with 12 week contracts to get round paying holiday pay. The government is right to stop this crude exploitation.’

A spokesperson for the the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said that the ECJ ruling was extremely disappointing.

For a detailed analysis and background read:

Court rules UK temps are entitled to paid holiday

2 Responses

  1. Sourcing figures
    Deferring to your sensitivities Henry, I shall change the article to read “hundreds of thousands”. That said, the reference to millions came from both union sources and business sources during my background conversations with interested parties.

    Conversations indicate that the government figures refer to those currently in employment situations which could be affected by the ruling but does not necessarily cover those previously employed under such contracts where the 13 week rule, although UK law, breached EU requirements.

    It’s a good job we can always trust our government to supply correct figures, eh?! 😉


  2. Over the top?
    The article above says “The result is that millions of workers previously denied paid leave will now benefit”.

    A bit OTT? The UK government consultation paper of 27th June reckons 670,000 workers will be affected. Or have I missed something?

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