Case round-up – right to holiday pay

Ainsworth v Inland Revenue, Court of Appeal, 22 April 2005

Ainsworth was dismissed by the Inland Revenue after a period of ill health lasting for more than a year.

He brought a claim for holiday pay under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR).

It consisted of a claim for accrued statutory holiday and compensation for untaken leave on termination of employment.

At the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) stage, Ainsworth successfully relied on the previous EAT decisions in Kigass Aero Components Ltd v Brown 2002 (which ruled that employees on long-term sick leave are entitled to up to four weeks’ statutory holiday pay per year), and List Design Group Ltd v Douglas 2002 (which ruled that employees can claim lost holiday pay for previous holiday years).

The Inland Revenue successfully appealed to the Court of Appeal on both points.

In overturning Kigass and List Design, the court made several comments.

On the Kigass issue, the court said that the natural meaning of ‘leave’ denoted a release from what would otherwise be an obligation (ie the obligation to be at work). As Ainsworth was not ‘at work’, he did not need to be released from this obligation.

The WTR are also based on health and safety concerns, intended to release employees from the pressures of daily work. As Ainsworth was not at work, he would gain no such benefit by taking leave.

On the List Design issue, the court agreed that Ainsworth should not be able to claim for backdated holiday pay over a period of several years. Under the WTR, employees can only claim for unpaid statutory holiday entitlement for the year in which that entitlement falls, and claims should be brought within three months of the date on which the right arises.

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