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Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 13:52 GMT 14:52 UK
Holiday pay for temps
Crowded beach on French Riviera
The UK's freelance workers can now join these holidaymakers in France
The European Court of Justice has ruled that millions of UK freelance workers are entitled to four weeks paid holiday a year.

The court ruled that the UK government had broken European employment law by denying freelancers and those on short term contracts the right to paid holidays.

Our members have been treated as second-class citizens by the Government's decision

Roger Bolton
Bectu Secretary General
Under the UK's interpretation of the working time directive, no-one is entitled to claim paid annual leave until they have worked for their employer for 13 weeks.

This often meant that millions of teachers, cleaners and media workers could not claim annual paid leave or receive payment in lieu.

But the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has said that the move could cause difficulties for employers who could find themselves in "ridiculous situations".

Staff shortages

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has also expressed its disappointment with the ruling.

The BCC says that it will be particularly difficult for every business that employs working parents.

Companies will be forced to employ workers to manage absences because of the introduction of paternity leave and extended maternity leave.

Those cover staff would then have to be given holiday themselves.

"Businesses will now find themselves in the ridiculous situation of paying for a short term contract worker for one to two months to cover for a working parent and having to find temporary staff to cover the short term contract worker who could be due one to three days paid leave," said the BCC in a statement.

Union triumph

The test case was brought by the broadcasting and entertainment union BECTU, the first time an individual union had taken the government to the European court.

The union's members include sound recordists, special effects technicians, hairdressers and make up artists - many of whom work on short-term contracts.

Domestic law will now have to be amended to comply with the Working Time directive, which set minimum works requirements across Europe in 1993.

But Bectu is pushing for immediate changes to British law.

"The Government should act now to change the law rather than wait to be forced by British courts," said Bectu secretary general Roger Bolton, "our members, along with millions of other workers, have been treated as second-class citizens by the Government's decision to exclude them from the same holiday rights as other employees enjoy."

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12 Jun 01 | Business
Q&A: EU labour directive
05 Sep 00 | UK
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