Self-employed worker can claim 13 years of unpaid holiday pay

    Self-employed worker can claim 13 years of unpaid holiday pay

    The European Court has recently decided that a self-employed window salesman, who successfully claimed worker status, is entitled to claim unpaid holiday pay for the entire 13 years of his engagement – some £27,000.

    The case is the latest in a string of decisions relating to the ever political gig economy. This is the name given to working arrangements where an individual is classed as self-employed and paid per job or ‘gig’.

    Worker status is often hotly disputed and is, unfortunately, a question of fact. This means that whatever label businesses and individuals choose to put on the engagement is far from determinative. The courts and tribunals will look at how the parties operate in practice, which might well change over time.

    The individual in question is at liberty to argue, when the relationship turns sour, that they were, in fact, a worker or an employee.

    What’s the benefit?

    Well, workers are entitled to a whole host of rights that self-employed contractors are not, including not only holiday pay but also sick pay and the national minimum wage or national living wage.

    In the case referred to above, the European Court held that a worker who is prevented from taking holiday must be allowed to carry over the leave, despite the prohibition in the UK’s Working Time Regulations 1998.

    So just how far can the worker go back in time?

    Well potentially 20 years, to when the original EU Working Time Directive came into force, if they've been engaged for that long.

    As this applies to the 4 weeks’ paid holiday afforded by the EU (rather than the more generous UK allowance of 5.6 weeks), we’re talking potentially about a whopping 80 weeks’ pay for the longest-standing workers!

    The case has potentially far-reaching implications for various operators in the gig economy, not least Uber and Pimlico Plumbers, who have decisions against them in favour of their newly determined workers.

    Watch this space for appeals in the future but, for now, anyone engaging self-employed contractors should proceed very carefully.

    Please contact a member of our Employment Law team if you have any questions or queries about this or any employment issue.

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