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07/08/2019 - UNISON wins big court victory on annual leave

unisonlogoOur brothers and sisters in UNISON have secured a great victory at the Court of Appeal not just for their own members but for hundreds of thousands of employees working part-time and irregular hours or patterns.

Harpur Trust v Brazel & UNISON clarifies the legal position ensuring all workers are entitled to a minimum of 28 days’ paid annual leave, even if they do not get given work or paid for parts of the year. In addition, this leave must be paid at the rate of a normal week’s pay or based on the average payment for the preceding 12 weeks if the pay is irregular.

UNISON intervened in this appeal, which was being defended by music teacher Mrs. Lesley Brazel and brought by Harpur Trust, her term-time employer. The trust claimed she was entitled to leave and pay below the statutory minimum. After a four year legal battle, the Court of Appeal has now ruled that Mrs. Brazel is entitled to 28 days' annual leave – and this should be paid at the rate of a week’s pay.

The position of leave for hourly-paid workers in the education sector, who are not paid a salary during school holidays, had been unclear due to the absence of government guidance or definitive case law on their holiday rights.

Although Mrs. Brazel is not a member of UNISON, the union was concerned about the wider implications of the case and how it would affect hundreds of thousands of part-time workers and those working on irregular hours. It applied to intervene in November 2018.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “UNISON intervened because this case was about all workers being treated fairly and would have an impact across the whole of the UK.

“Staff in schools are often required under contract to be at school outside term time, and, like Mrs. Brazel, are required to do additional unpaid duties beyond those periods. It’s right that they should be paid the same minimum statutory entitlement of 28 days annual leave like everyone else.”

UNISON legal officer Shantha David who acted for UNISON said: “We’re extremely pleased that the Court of Appeal considered and accepted UNISON’s argument.

“The government’s failure to provide guidance in this area has left workers in limbo. The courts have once again had to step in to stop the abuse of workers and to fix what legislation should have made clear from the outset.”

The decision follows similar Unison court victories such as the overturning of legal fees at employment tribunals and the decision that regular overtime should be included when calculating holiday pay.

Pat Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity, commented "UNISON have won a great victory for all workers. Many will be toasting their victory."