Keys, check. Passport, check. Toothbrush, check. As you head off on a well-deserved holiday this summer, spare a thought for nearly 1.7 million working Brits who may still be stuck at work, cheated out of paid leave by unscrupulous or incompetent employers.
Workers in Northern Ireland (9.5%) fare worst, as do those working in food, hospitality and the entertainment sector, where almost 1 in 7 staff get less than the full-time legal minimum of 28 days paid leave a year.
How is this happening? “Some employers deliberately stop staff from taking the leave and holiday pay they’re entitled to, whereas other workers lose out from poor management and failure to keep up with the law,” says TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady. Workers in high-pressure jobs may also feel obliged to give up their holidays and rack up unpaid hours instead.
Worrying direction of travel
The introduction of employment tribunal fees in 2013 certainly hasn’t helped either, by making it more expensive and difficult to seek legal redress against bad employers – and easier for them to ignore or get rid of workers who challenge them. That’s why the government (in the shape of HM Revenue and Customs) needs to do more to enforce the law around paid leave, instead of putting the entire onus on the worker.
We’re also concerned about the Prime Minister’s renegotiation of our relationship with the EU. It could see Britain opting out of the EU Working Time Directive, which since 1998 has brought the holiday entitlements of up to six million UK workers in line with fair European standards. Our employment rights need strengthening, not weakening.
What you can do
If you think you are not getting your full entitlement to holiday leave and pay, a trade union can help make sure your voice is heard and your views effectively represented to your employer in negotiations. If your workplace is unionised, talk to your rep. If not, use our online Union Finder to find out which unions operate for your industry, and some principles to apply when working out which one is best for you.