New court ruling backs the right to paid holiday for gig economy

A recent court ruling will have significant implications for the right to holiday pay in the UK.

The judgment has been described as a “game-changer” for gig-economy workers, as they could now get paid for holiday leave.

In the case of The Sash Window Workshop and another v King, Conley King was a self-employed worker for a window firm.

He was never paid annual leave during the period he worked there, which was from 1999 until he retired in 2012.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled this week that he was entitled to payment for the time off as well as any leave that he had not taken.

Judges added that the right to paid holiday was a “particularly important principle of EU social law”.

The Court of Appeal had asked the CJEU whether there was a time limit for Mr King to claim the payment. The EU court decided there wasn’t – a decision which lawyers say could lead to other similar cases being brought.

“An employer that does not allow a worker to exercise his right to paid annual leave must bear the consequences,” the court ruled.

“Furthermore, it is for the employer to seek all information regarding his obligations in regard to paid annual leave.

The new ruling means that contractors and freelancers on a self-employed basis could now claim back years of back pay.

Dr. Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary of the IWGB union said: “Today’s bombshell judgement from the The Court of Justice of the European Union is a game changer for the so-called ‘gig economy’.

“The law is now recognising the massive unpaid debt of ‘gig economy’ companies to their workers and IWGB members will be coming to collect.”

Clare Gilroy-Scott, partner at Goodman Derrick, which represented King, said: “This case is of importance in clarifying that workers who are denied their entitlement under the Working Time Regulations to paid annual leave do not have to take a period of unpaid leave first before taking legal action to receive pay for that leave.

“This would otherwise have left a worker (who was without protection from unfair dismissal and reliant upon continued work) with the unattractive prospect of having to suffer a detrimental impact on his remuneration by taking unpaid leave.

The court has confirmed that a worker may carry over and make a claim for untaken leave entitlement on the termination of the engagement in these circumstances.”

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