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Workers can claim compensation if not allowed to take holidays

View profile for Sally Morris
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The European Union’s Advocate General has informed the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that workers are entitled to paid leave and can claim compensation if they are not allowed to take holidays.

Giving his opinion about a case involving a UK window salesman, the Advocate General reinforced the employee’s rights to claim for holiday pay for a 13-year period that amounts to more than £27,000.

The salesman, referred to as Mr King, worked for Sash Window Workshop Ltd but was dismissed at the age of 65. In the time he worked for the firm, his employment contract did not specify if he was entitled to paid leave.

He had been paid entirely on commission and his contract described him as self-employment. However, a UK employment tribunal had already found he should have been treated as a full-time worker.

The Advocate General, Evgeni Tanchev, went further, however, saying that Mr King’s employers had to provide “adequate facilities to workers” to enable them to take their paid annual leave.

Mr Tanchev added that a worker like Mr King can rely on EU law to secure payment in lieu of untaken leave, when the employer has made no facility available, for exercise of the right to paid annual leave.

Opinions given by Advocate Generals are normally followed by the full court, so a final decision is likely to be delivered in the coming months. However, if the final court ruling confirms the advance opinion, then there could be substantial costs on many UK firms that have operated similar employment practices.

This case is one of a series that have gone forward to the ECJ in recent months to establish whether businesses operating in the so-called ‘gig economy’ are depriving employees of benefits, to which they should be entitled by reclassifying them as self-employed.