Nearly two million workers unlawfully denied minimum holiday entitlement

In last month’s Legal Eye we covered the fact that voluntary overtime had to be included within holiday pay calculations when it was sufficiently regular and settled. However, a study released in the interim by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has suggested that a large number of employers are failing to provide staff with the right amount of paid leave altogether.

According to the figures, 1 in 14 UK workers are not receiving their full legal entitlement, whilst over 1 million are failing to receive any paid leave from their employer at all. Interestingly, female employees were reported as being worse off than their male counterparts in this regard. However, this may be attributed to the disproportionate number of women working in the education, retail and health and social care sectors where these incidents proved to be the most common.

Admittedly, understanding the legislation around annual leave can be tricky, especially for those with a large number of staff who work part-time or irregular hours. The TUC have indicated that this lack of awareness, coupled with the fact that staff are being set unrealistic workloads that discourages them from taking time off, are significant contributing factors. Therefore, it is important that employers consider where this may be causing a problem in their own organisation.

Most will already be aware that employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave each year (inclusive of public holidays), however organisations can choose to offer more if they wish. This typically amounts to 28 days for those who work 5 days a week, however part-time staff should see their leave pro-rated based on the number of days they work each week.

On the other hand, when calculating the holiday entitlement for those who work irregular hours, such as zero-hours workers, it is usually easiest to base this on the number of hours worked. On this basis, holiday will accrue at a rate of 12.07%  per hour worked, meaning a zero-hours worker who has worked 10 hours will have accrued 1.2 hours’ of holiday entitlement. It should be noted that the figure of 12.07% corresponds to an annual leave entitlement of 5.6 weeks; employers who offer more than this will use a different calculation. Given the complexity of this, it is essential to keep accurate records of working time for all staff to ensure individuals receive the correct holiday entitlement.      

Aside from this, it is also important that employers do not delegate excessive work duties to staff as this can easily create a culture of presenteeism.  Line managers play a significant role here in dividing work fairly and with the best interests of the team in mind. They should keep a close eye out for individuals who are reluctant to take time off work throughout the year and consider ways of reducing workloads where necessary if they appear to be struggling.

Ultimately, annual leave entitlement is a statutory right and employers who fail to accommodate this could face costly discrimination claims. Whilst the idea of staff taking time off work may not always be ideal, especially during busy times of the year, it is important that employers afford staff sufficient opportunity to use their full allocation of annual leave throughout the leave year.

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