Nearly two million UK employees do not receive their minimum paid leave entitlement

Frances O'Grady

Nearly two million (1.96 million) UK employees do not receive the minimum entitlement of paid annual leave, according to research conducted by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

The analysis, based on the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Labour force survey data for quarter four of 2018, also found that 1.145 million employees do not receive any paid leave. Around 8.3% of women and 5.9% of men are unable to take their legal holiday entitlement.

Frances O’Grady (pictured), general secretary at the TUC, said: “Every [employee] deserves a break to spend time off with friends and family. But millions are missing out on the paid leave they are owed.

“British [employees] put in billions of pounds worth of unpaid overtime as it is. Employers have no excuse for robbing staff of their leave. The government must toughen up enforcement to stop bosses cheating working people out of their holidays. And ministers must not resurrect tribunal fees which stopped people enforcing their rights.”

The sectors most affected by this issue include education (341,000), retail (302,000) and health and social care (264,000).

Furthermore, 9.2% of employees based in Northern Ireland are not getting their minimum paid leave entitlement, compared to 7.7% of staff working in the east of England and 7.5% of individuals who work in London.

Employees in the UK are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks of paid leave through the Working Time Regulations 1998, which were amended in 2009. This typically equates to 28 days of paid leave for a five-day working week. This entitlement includes British public holidays.

The TUC has recommended that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) be awarded new powers in order to tackle situations where employees are denied their statutory entitlement; this could include the power to ensure that individuals are fully compensated for holiday days not taken.

The TUC attributes the fact that employees are unable to take their paid holiday entitlement to individuals being set unrealistic workloads and feeling unable to take time off, employers deliberately denying holiday requests and managing out people’s leave, or employers not keeping up to date with the law.

Malcolm Gregory, partner in the employment team at Royds Withy King, added: “This issue is not just about employers flouting the law, but also [employees] taking responsibility for their wellbeing and understanding the health implications of not taking a reasonable amount of time off. [Employees] who wish to complain can do so and will be in a strong position to enforce their legal rights.

I don’t see that introducing more enforcement powers will make a significant difference to the statistics released by the TUC. Ultimately, this issue is only really policed by [staff] complaints. They already have the legal right to complain to an employment tribunal for compensation. Provided the tribunal system remains free to use, there is no barrier to justice.”

Will Clift, solicitor at Winckworth Sherwood, said: “This report serves as a reminder that employment tribunals can and do order employers to compensate their workers in circumstances where they have been too busy to take their full statutory holiday entitlement. Employers should therefore remember that they are under an obligation to enable their workers to take their full entitlement, which can extend to actively encouraging workers to take time off, if necessary.

“In addition, as much of the latest research suggests that well rested employees are more productive, this approach may bear fruit in the long run.”