In a landmark legal battle at the European Court of Justice, a British window salesman has won his claim due to not receiving paid holiday for 13 years. Conley King worked for a sash window firm on a self-employed basis, but has been found to have workers' rights. This means that his claim for £27,000 of backdated holiday pay has been upheld and he is also entitled to take his untaken leave.
The gig economy
The decision could have significant implications for firms in the so-called gig economy.
According to one definition, the gig economy is 'a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs'. Some view it as a working environment that offers flexibility with regard to employment hours, for others, it is seen as a form of exploitation with very little workplace protection.
Entitled to unpaid leave
In this particular case, Mr King worked as a commission-based salesman for The Sash Window Workshop between 1999 and 2012. After he was dismissed from the firm, a UK Employment Tribunal ruled that Mr King should have been classified as a worker.
He also brought a claim for £27,000 of holiday pay he says he should have received. The Sash Window Workshop has stated that Mr King worked as a self-employed salesman under an arrangement that suited him. They have been quoted in saying "We would like to reiterate that at no point was he prevented by us from taking any time off for holiday or otherwise, as there was no requirement for him to request it or for us to agree to it.".
The case will return to the UK Court of Appeal for a further ruling.
What could happen next?
Paul Burton, Head of our Employment Team, says "This decision impacts companies that routinely use staff on self-employed contracts, for example taxi or delivery firms. They could face potentially huge liabilities if that status is ever later challenged. It was decided that there was no time limit for this person's claim, which opens the door for similar cases. The law is now recognising the massive unpaid debt of 'gig economy' companies to their workers."
At Frettens, all of our solicitors offer a free initial meeting or chat on the phone to answer your questions. If this article raises issues for you or your business, please call us on 01202 499255 and Kate or Paul will be happy to discuss it with you.