Millions missing out on statutory paid leave

12 August 2019

With over a million workers getting no paid leave at all, and nearly two million not getting the minimum entitlement they are due, the TUC wants HMRC to be granted new powers to clamp down on employers who deny staff their statutory holidays.

General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “British workers put in billions of pounds’ worth of unpaid overtime as it is. Employers have no excuse for robbing staff of their leave. The Government must toughen up enforcement to stop bosses cheating working people out of their holidays”.

According to the TUC, the main reasons people are missing out are:

  • workers being set unrealistic workloads that do not allow time to take leave

  • employers deliberately denying holiday requests and managing out people’s leave

  • employers not keeping up to date with the law.

Its analysis shows that women workers (8.3%) are worse affected than men (5.9%) in this regard and that the sectors with the highest numbers of staff losing out on their legal paid holiday entitlement are in education (341,000), retail (302,000) and health and social care (264,000).

The TUC points out that the number of people making unpaid holiday claims has more than doubled since tribunal fees were abolished in 2017 and that most holiday pay cases are found in the claimant’s favour, with values ranging from £18.94 to £11,000.

Most are for a few hundred pounds.

The TUC believes that all workers should have their holiday rights guaranteed using a system of supplementing the employment tribunal enforcement route with a proactive enforcement body.

This is the model that the Government uses for enforcing the National Living Wage.

It’s the law

UK workers are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks of paid leave under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (amended 2009).

This means 28 days for a typical five-day week, with pro rata entitlement for those who work fewer than five days. The minimum entitlement includes the UK's public holidays.

Individuals might be entitled to additional leave in their employment contracts.

Comment from BrightHR CEO and HR expert Alan Price

Although it’s hard to excuse deliberately denying staff their right to annual leave, it is possible to have sympathy for employers who sometimes struggle to grasp the law around holiday entitlements.

While calculating annual leave and pay may be fairly straightforward when it comes to those working regular hours, the rise of the gig economy has meant more people are working varied hours each week, making the task considerably more difficult.

Employers can often lament the fact they are expected to be both business owners and legal experts, who can be held accountable for misunderstanding certain legislation. This frustration is only likely to increase if the Government increases its enforcement measures, as has been proposed in a recent public consultation.

Therefore, ahead of any developments, employers will need to figure out an effective way of calculating annual leave and pay, as well as ensuring staff are given sufficient opportunity to take this leave during the leave year.

These efforts need to be at the heart of any business strategy to ensure the concept of annual leave is embraced rather than discouraged.