Supreme Court dismisses dispute over holiday entitlement

The Supreme Court has dismissed an employment case from a group of Transocean employees who argued that their entitlement for annual leave should be taken from their time spent offshore rather than onshore.

The oil and gas rig workers are contracted to work a pattern of two weeks offshore and two weeks onshore, known as ‘field breaks’. The issue was whether annual leave must be taken out of what would otherwise be working time or, as Transocean contended, whether it could also be taken from the non-working time.

Tim Wragg, senior associate at international law firm Eversheds, said the case would be welcomed by all employers that did not follow standard nine-to-five working hours.

He said: “This decision will obviously come as a relief to employers in the oil and gas industry. A ruling by the Supreme Court that annual leave can only consist of time which would otherwise be working time would have had staggering consequences in this sector.

“Oil industry leaders say such changes could have restricted employees to working eight days a month offshore, meaning large sections of North Sea operations may have had to close.

“Significantly, the effects could have been no less dramatic for other employers because the implications of this decision go far beyond those employed on offshore installations.

“For example, it is common practice in the education sector to employ staff to work on a term-time only basis and many other employees in other sectors also work on term-time only contracts.

“Similarly, the decision could have had a major impact on the holiday entitlement of those who work ‘continental’ shift patterns (four days on, four days off) or annualised hours.

“The Supreme Court’s decision will be welcomed by employers of all such atypical workers because it means that, as far as holiday entitlement is concerned, it will be business as usual.”

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