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EDITIONS
 Friday, 23 August, 2002, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Britons miss out on holidays
Dreaming of a holiday?
Full holiday rights are a distant dream for many

Work-life balance week starts on 23 September, and by the sound of it some British employers need to wake up and take notes.

Over the last few years, rights to paid holiday have greatly improved.

Whether you love it or hate it, this is thanks to Europe.

There is a loophole and employers are exploiting it - and it needs to be tightened up

Steve
Lorry driver
UK workers are now eligible for a minimum of 20 working days holiday a year.

However, unlike other European countries, the British have not gone the whole hog and employers in the UK can craftily - but legally - include the UK's eight bank holidays within the 20 days.

The TUC now believes this loophole is short-changing the holiday rights of about 800,000 British workers, while another portion of employees are being cheated of basic rights.

Appreciative employers

A number of callers to Brian Alexander's show on BBC's Radio 5 on Friday morning certainly felt short-changed.

One caller, a sales rep, said he only gets 16 days holiday a year, and that includes his bank holidays.

"Whenever at work I resent half the time I'm here," he says.

It is not only the issue of holidays, he says, adding this is indicative of what his employer is like.

"It is quite simply not a happy work environment - and there is no one who is happy... People want to be appreciated for what they do."

Into plumbing

Steve, a lorry driver, works on average 65 hours a week, and he also has limited holiday rights.

In the UK you get the impression that pleasure comes before busines

Geoff
Former ex-patriate

He says he gets three weeks holiday a year plus bank holidays.

But he has to use some of his annual holiday to cover the Christmas break.

"There is a loophole and employers are exploiting it - and it needs to be tightened up," he told Radio 5.

This must come from the government, he says, and must be a universal right.

Steve, however, is not waiting for the government to act, he's decided to take the plunge (literally) and retrain as a plumber.

He believes that with the much publicised national shortage of plumbers, it will give him a better wage and better holiday rights.

More bank holidays

It's not just about holidays, say some. People are having to work longer hours to boost their meagre wages.

Another Steve, who works in the public sector, admits he's a bit of a clock watcher.

He says that what he does in a 12-hour shift, could be done in an eight-hour shift.

Another anonymous caller who used to work for a bank agrees.

He believes that people are dragging their heels at work to get overtime.

"People could quite simply do their job nine to five," says the caller.

"But because they need more money, they had to put the overtime in."

Too much holiday

Not all are sympathetic.

Geoff has recently returned from spending 25 years in Hong Kong, and it sounds like he's missing it.

He says that Brits spend a lot of time discussing football and holidays - and that we are quite lazy.

"British people as a race don't work hard."

"In the UK you get the impression that pleasure comes before business," he adds.

"People have too much holiday and they are not committed to what they do."

See also:

22 Aug 02 | Business
23 Aug 02 | Business
04 Feb 02 | Business
29 Apr 02 | Business
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