Holiday Pay & Overtime: The Changes

The European Working Time Directive states that workers should receive four weeks statutory holiday pay. This was implemented in the UK by The Working Time Directive 1998. In 2009, the UK Government increased this allowance to 5.6 weeks annual statutory holiday pay.

This is a minimum statutory requirement, but employers can offer contractual holiday pay above this minimum level. Any additional holiday pay may however be subject to conditions such as length of employment or rank within the company. Public holidays do not have to be given as separate holidays, so you may receive less than 5.6 weeks time to book off work as vacation time in addition to bank holidays, but will be paid for bank holidays when the business is closed.

The exact number of days you receive will depend upon the number of days that you work. For example:

  • if you work 5 days a week, you will receive 5 x 5.6 = 28 days
  • if you work 2 and a half days a week, you will receive 2.5 x 5.6 = 14 days

There is a cap of 28 days, so if you work 6 days a week, you will still only receive 28 days statutory holiday pay.

Bear Scotland Ltd (et al) v Fulton

Your holiday pay is calculated, in accordance with The Employment Rights Act 1996, as the equivalent of a week’s pay for each week of statutory leave. However the Act gives no real guidance about how your average week’s pay should be calculated. This means that most companies will only pay your basic weekly salary as holiday pay, and not take into account any additional payments such as commission and voluntary overtime.

On 4 November 2014, The Employment Appeal Tribunal decided the case of Bear Scotland Ltd (et al) v Fulton. This case considered whether employers should take overtime payments into account when calculating statutory holiday pay.

The Tribunal ruled that additional payments such as voluntary overtime and payment for being on stand-by for emergency call outs should be taken into account when calculating statutory holiday pay.

Workers can make a back-dated claim for further holiday pay owed under the new calculation. However back-dated claims can only be made to The Employment Tribunal if it is less than 3 months since the last incorrect payment of holiday pay.

Good or bad judgement?

The Tribunal’s judgement in Bear Scotland Ltd (et al) v Fulton has been celebrated by Workers Unions who estimate that 1/6 of UK workers will benefit from this new calculation with increased holiday pay.

Business groups such as The Federation of Small Businesses, The British Chambers of Commerce and The Institute of Directors have however expressed concerns as this re-calculation could create an increase of around 3% to the payroll bill of the members. This in turn could lead to an increased “squeeze” on small businesses, just as the UK economy was starting to turn around. Ultimately if businesses are unable to pay employees, that could lead to redundancies.

The estimated impact of the decision is very mixed, depending upon which groups you speak to. It seems likely that the re-calculation will in the short-term be of benefit to employees. However if smaller businesses are unable to adapt to the changes, the re-calculation could cause long-term problems. It is very early days, and some business groups have expressed an interest in appealing the decision, so it is a case of “watch this space” in terms of the impact of the judgement.

Last Updated on 27 May 2021

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