Holiday Pay Judgment: What Does it Mean for Your Business?

On 4 November 2014, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) handed down its decision in three significant employment cases. It is a ground-breaking decision which gives some clarity to various European Judgments on the issue.

The key points to take from the decision are that:

  1. Holiday pay should be equivalent to a worker’s “normal” pay. What is “normal” depends on whether the payment in question has been made for a sufficient period of time to justify the label of being “normal” (the regularity / pattern of payments will be relevant in making this decision).
  2. Overtime which a worker is not permitted to refuse (i.e. guaranteed and non-guaranteed overtime) must count as part of their “normal” pay when calculating the pay they should receive on holiday.
  3. The Working Time Regulations which transposed the European Working Time Directive into UK law is incompatible with the Directive, but can be interpreted so as to give effect to these changes.
  4. The vast majority of workers will only be able to recover underpayments in the last three months.

However, there are various intricacies which employers need to appreciate:

  1. The Judgment only applies in respect to the 20 days’ annual leave guaranteed under the Working Time Directive, not the additional 8 days’ leave which is a purely domestic-driven right, set out in the Working Time Regulations. As such, workers can expect to receive a higher rate of holiday pay (that which includes overtime, commissions and various other payments) for 20 out of their 28-days’ holiday per year, with the remaining 8 days being paid at the level it previously was, unless their employer decides to pay all 28 days at the higher level.
  2. Where workers’ previous periods of holiday are separated by a gap of less than 3 months, they may be able to recover underpayments for a longer period than the 3-month limit set out above, by arguing that the underpayments form part of a “series”. Even in those cases however, it is unlikely that they will be able to go back in time to recover underpaid holiday for more than one holiday year.
  3. There is no definitive statement in the Judgment to confirm that purely voluntary overtime (that which the employer is not obliged to offer and the worker is not obliged to accept) would also be included. However, comments in the Judgment and the underlying ethos of the various European decisions could be said to lean towards the view that voluntary overtime which is regularly worked by a worker would count as part of their “normal” pay and hence should be included when calculating holiday pay.
  4. Whilst the domestic 12-week reference period for calculating average pay might be maintained going forward, there could be a change to this (brought about through case law or legislative change) due to the fact that some workers’ pay is highly variable throughout the year and a 12-week snapshot could be misleading depending on the 12-week period captured. For example, a retail worker who does far more overtime during certain periods (perhaps Christmas) would have a far higher average number of hours as their “normal pay” if they took leave in January. Similarly, a salesperson who takes leave shortly after an unusually large commission payment could receive inflated holiday pay which is not representative of “normal pay”. In such cases, a longer period may be necessary and justified. In one of the Opinions of an Advocate General, it was suggested that a 12-month reference period might be appropriate. This is not binding however, and we shall have to wait and see how this issue is resolved.

As a result of this Judgment and other employment cases we can now say with some confidence that the following elements of a worker’s pay should count when calculating their first 20 days’ statutory holiday in a holiday year:

  • Commission payments
  • Guaranteed and non-guaranteed overtime that is regularly worked
  • Incentive bonuses
  • Travel time payments (not expenses, but payments for the time spent travelling)
  • Shift premia
  • Seniority payments (payments linked to qualifications/grade/experience)
  • Stand-by payments
  • Certain other payments (such as “flying pay” and “time away pay” provided such payments are not expenses).

In Conclusion

The recent EAT decision will give some comfort to businesses that feared potential back-payments for 16 years’ holiday entitlements by their workforce. However, you must now resolve past liabilities and start paying correctly going forward. This will increase your operating costs. It is estimated to be approximately a 3-5% increase on payroll. The parties have been granted leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal, so the position on this issue may yet change.

Employment Law Changes – What’s New for 2014?

Twice a year we run an Employment Law update workshop, where we go through all the recent and forthcoming changes. This helps our clients keep up to date on the law, without getting bogged down in all the details.

Here’s what we covered at our workshop in October 2014:

January 2014

  • TUPE – collective redundancy consultations can now be started before the transfer, with a requirement for service provision to be fundamentally the same before and after the transfer
  • The right to be accompanied – workers can now choose any companion to be with them in a meeting, providing they are a work colleague or a trade union representative.

March 2014

  • Employers will face penalties of up to 100% of the unpaid wages and a maximum penalty of £20,000 for not paying the National Minimum Wage
  • Rehabilitation periods have been reduced and fewer convictions now need to be disclosed.

April 2014

  • Early conciliation – Acas must now be contacted before a tribunal application can be made
  • The discrimination questionnaire has been abolished
  • Tribunal financial penalties – tribunals have the power to order penalties for the losing employers, ranging from £100 to £5000 where breach has “one or more aggravating factors”.

June 2014

  • Flexible working – this has been extended to all employees with 26 weeks service
  • Small Business and Enterprise Bill – this includes changes to National Minimum Wage breach penalties and restricting the number of postponements of tribunal hearings.

July 2014

  • TUPE changes – from 31 July businesses, employing less than 10 people are able to consult individually.

October 2014

  • National Minimum Wages were increased
  • Antenatal rights – time off must be given for an employee to accompany a pregnant partner for two appointments.

Watch this space for news of our next Employment Law workshop, which will be held in April or May 2015, when we’ll discuss the next round of changes. These will include changes to parental leave, adoption rights and shared parental leave in April 2015; and a new tax free childcare scheme in the Autumn 2015.

Or subscribe to our email newsletter and you’ll receive details as soon as they’re published.

Getting to Grips with Grievance

I’ve been working with one of my clients to look at how their employees feel they’re being treated by their managers. Unfortunately, in one case, it has resulted in a member of staff being signed off sick due to stress. They have been asked to come back to work, but they don’t want to return and have to work for the same manager. In this particular small business, there is no one else for whom they could work.

It is a sad story and it is one that can be avoided.

If you think that one of your employees is unhappy, it really is best to deal with it early. Find out as soon as you can what the problem is. Look at using regular appraisals or ‘job chats’ to keep in touch with your employees, so that no small issues are ignored. The small ones can be the ones that escalate into much larger, more complex issues, if they’re not dealt with while they’re still small.

If you find out that someone is unhappy about working under you, find someone else to deal with the situation. An employee with a problem is more likely to speak to someone more impartial than the person with whom they have the actual grievance.

To find out more about how to prevent problems occurring, have a look at this blog about how to make appraisals really easy; for tips on improving performance, watch some of our videos here.

For more advice on how to deal with grievances and discipline at work, have a look at this Acas guide.