The Amicus union has welcomed a commitment from employment relations minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, to clarify the legislation around allowing offshore workers paid holiday entitlement.
The move follows a long-running campaign by Amicus for the UK's 20,000 offshore workers to have the Working Time Directive applied to them.
Oil companies argue that workers are not entitled to four weeks' paid annual leave – unlike all other UK workers – because their place of work lies beyond the UK's geographical boundaries.
The government has pledged to change the regulations so UK offshore workers are no longer exempt. The union hopes the change will be made as early as October 2006.
Amicus is also fighting an employment tribunal case on behalf of its offshore members to argue for backpay for their paid leave entitlement.
Graham Tran, Amicus regional officer, said: "No longer will employers be allowed to hide behind the argument of legislation not applying beyond territorial waters. Further, this will allow us to take forward the substantive issues affecting offshore workers leave entitlement, including how paid leave should be taken and what constitutes working time."