The court in Luxembourg said that current UK legislation breached European Union rules and must be changed to comply with the working time directive. In the UK the right to annual holidays is conditional on the worker having been continuously employed for 13 weeks with the same employer.
The ruling met with an angry response from the Confederation of British Industry which said the rule change would be an inconvenience for employers and employees.
CBI director of human resources Policy Susan Anderson, said: ‘Employers believe it is reasonable to have a qualification period before employees become entitled to holiday pay.
‘Employers who employ people on short contracts of three or four weeks will want staff available to work the whole duration of the contract. Planning for holidays will cause disruption and inconvenience,’ she said.
‘Employers often pay a premium for this flexibility and many employees prefer having extra pay in lieu of holidays. Now they will not always have the option.’
One of the main beneficiaries of the ruling will be members of the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematographic and Theatre Union which was the first union to challenge the UK rules in Europe. Many of the employees within BECTU work on short-term contracts running for less than the 13-week deadline.
Employment relations minister Alan Johnson immediately announced a consultation on amendments to the Working Time Regulations.
‘The government will be consulting urgently on draft regulations and guidance, which will bring the Working Time Regulations into line with the terms of the judgement,’ he said.
As part of the consultation, the government hopes to introduce 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. According to Johnson, this would mean a full-time employee could take 2 days off after one month’s work.
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