The Supreme Court has ruled that staff who only work for part of the year in the UK are entitled to the same holiday pay as full time workers.
The judgement will be of interest to workers, such as teachers, who are on term-time contracts and could mean they are entitled to claim back pay in light of the ruling.
Previously, some employers have prorated the annual leave of teachers and other workers on similar contracts where they aren’t contracted to work 52 weeks per year.
So, for example, if full time staff are entitled to 5 weeks annual leave, then some organisations have said that part time workers who only work, say, 26 weeks of the year (for ease of calculation) are only entitled to half of the annual leave – or 2.5 weeks in this particular example.
After the judgement, all employees of an organisation, regardless of whether they work full or part time, will be entitled to the same annual leave.
The judges in the case ruled unanimously in favour of Ms Lesley Brazel, a music teacher working for Harpur Trust, a charity which manages the running of Bedford Girls’ School.
In the written judgement of the case, the judges said that the Harpur Trust had reasoned:
“That the construction upheld by the court of appeal leads to an absurd result, that absurdity being that a worker in Mrs Brazel’s position – and in the position of some of the other hypothetical workers posited by the Harpur Trust – receives holiday pay which represents a higher proportion of her annual pay than full-time or part-time workers who work regular hours.”
The judgement continued: “We recognise, of course, that a construction which leads to an absurd result is, in general, unlikely to be what parliament intended. However, we do not regard any slight favouring of workers with a highly atypical work pattern as being so absurd as to justify the wholesale revision of the statutory scheme which the Harpur Trust’s alternative methods require.”
Speaking after the judgement, Ms Brazel said: “I am pleased to have secured my holiday pay rights, in accordance with the law and my contract of employment, in the highest court in the country. I hope that others can now benefit from this verdict.”
Unison, the UK’s largest public service union, welcomed the decision by the Supreme Court. The union’s general secretary, Christina McAnea,said: “Teaching assistants or other education employees might only be contracted to work when schools are open, but they’re also sometimes required to do their jobs at other times.”
“Today’s decision clarifies the law and says that annual leave taken by someone who works less than a full year can no longer be prorated to that of a colleague employed all year round,” added Ms McAnea.