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27/06/2001

UNION WIN LEGAL FIGHT ON HOLIDAYS

BECTU have won holiday rights for freelancers in a legal fight with the UK government.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) have ruled that the UK government are in breach of European employment law in denying freelance workers and those on short-term contracts the right to four weeks paid annual leave.
The legal challenge against the UK's legislation was launched by BECTU in 1999. Now, thousands of BECTU members, and millions of workers in other unions, can expect changes in the law which will guarantee paid holidays regardless of their length of contract.
On June 26, Members of the Court accepted an opinion issued in February by the Advocate General of the ECJ stating that the European Working Time Directive precludes national governments from excluding groups of workers from the rights that the directive gives them.
Under legislation introduced in 1998, the UK government excluded employees from accruing their rights to paid annual leave under the Working Time regulations until they have completed a qualifying period of employment of 13 weeks with their employers. Consequently, millions of freelance and contract workers, including media workers, teachers and cleaners, were denied a right to take paid leave as a result.
BECTU claim their successful legal case is the first ever instance of an individual trade union winning a case against the UK government at the European Court of Justice.
BECTU's lawyers Thompsons, the leading trade union law firm, said that the government were wrong to wait for the ECJ ruling and are calling on ministers to change the law without delay.
Stephen Cavalier, Head of Employment Rights at Thompsons, said: "The way in which our government implemented the Working Time directive in respect of holiday entitlement was never justified.
“The government should act now to change the law rather than wait to be forced by British Courts." (CD)
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