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Are part-year workers entitled to holiday pay?

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Are part-year workers entitled to holiday pay?

A long awaited decision from the Supreme Court was announced late in July which confirmed that workers who are only employed for part of a year, but who have a contract which lasts a full year, are entitled to the full 5.6 weeks of statutory holiday.

In reaching this decision, the Supreme Court rejected the view that holiday could be worked out on a pro-rata basis taking into consideration weeks not actually worked.

In this article Chris Dobbs discusses the outcome of this case.

Harper Trust v Brazel

The case was ultimately a review of a series of previous decisions which particularly included the case of Lesley Brazel.

Ms Brazel was a peripatetic music teacher at a school and worked a term-time only contract meaning she got all usual school holidays off in the same way as any other member of school staff.

What happened to Ms Bazel’s holiday entitlement?

In September 2011, the school changed her holiday calculations and applied the well-known 12.07% ‘percentage method’.

This pro-rated her holiday entitlement in proportion to her actual working time of 46.4 weeks.

This calculation was in accordance with Acas guidance and, indeed, the advice which would have been given by most specialists at the time.

What is the legal requirement for annual leave UK?

The law states that all workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks of annual leave (Working Time Regulations).

Throughout this dispute, the school had argued that Ms Brazel already had the usual school holidays off and that awarding her the full 5.6 weeks on top would be a windfall for part-year workers.

What did the supreme court rule?

The Supreme Court disagreed and said, among other things that:

  • The calculation did not give rise to an ‘absurd result’ just because Ms Brazel might receive some extra holiday pay; and
  • That the fact a small number of atypical workers might benefit slightly did not justify reworking the entire system of holiday calculations

How does this ruling affect employers?

This ruling will affect only a very small number of employees and, indeed, many employers should have taken note of the ruling of the Court of Appeal in May 2019 which deemed the 12.07% calculation unlawful in these circumstances.

Schools are the most obvious employers this will affect with part-year staff and the examples cited in the case included summer-term coaches or exam invigilators all of whom could potentially benefit under this ruling.

Will this ruling affect seasonal workers?

Yes, this ruling may also affect seasonal workers if they are not fixed-term or permanent employees of any business who allows term-time contracts for other reasons.

The important thing is whether they are contractually a permanent employee or not as, if so, they are entitled to a full holiday year even if they may only work a few weeks of it.

What might be interesting in the future, is whether employers get an increase in flexible working requests for moving to a term-time contract, perhaps citing childcare, in order to take advantage of this ruling.

Does this ruling affect part-time and fixed-term contracts?

Importantly, this does not change pro-rating rules for part-time staff or for fixed-term contracts.

Barring a statutory change, the fact that part-year workers may receive a benefit compared to their full-time counterparts is simply a by-product of the legislation. It may seem unfair but that is not for the courts to remedy.

Looking forward, the long-anticipated “bonfire of EU law”, supported by many in the government, may well include holiday pay and working time rules which could drastically change this position.

Related: Changes to holiday calculations for part-year and irregular workers in 2024.

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