From the TUC

1.5 billion extra days paid holiday thanks to EU rights

12 Apr 2016, by in Labour market

UK workers have gained 96 million days paid holiday thanks to EU holiday rights (the Working Time Directive), totalling 1.5 million extra days paid leave since 1998.

To look at it another way, 7.4 million UK employees, just over 1 in 4, have gained an average of 13 extra days paid holiday from our adoption of this EU-wide minimum standard.

The TUC figures, published today, are based on unpublished data from the ONS Labour Force Survey showing how many employees had less than 4 weeks paid leave entitlement in summer 1998, immediately before the EU holidays standard was adopted by the UK. The resultant figure is then increased by 13.4% to account for growth in the number of employees up to 2015.

It is sometimes said that if the UK wanted a minimum standard for paid holiday entitlements then it could simply legislate accordingly. The problem with this view is that minimum paid holiday entitlements were actually declining in the 1990s. In fact, the Conservative Government led by John Major abolished the Wages Councils for low paid sectors like retail and hotels, leading to holiday entitlements falling for new entrants to these industries.

Even less convincingly, some of those who espouse the view that the UK would have simply generated more holidays for all without EU intervention have given the example of the Paid Holidays Act 1938. The problem is that this act, which was a good step forward in the 1930s, empowered the Wages Councils to set holidays – so the act was useless once the Wages Councils were abolished.

The truth is that by 1998 the UK has failed to provide any holidays at all for one worker in 10, whilst more than a quarter of employees had less than the EU-wide minimum standard of 4 weeks annual paid leave. This was a very poor record, and women were the biggest group losing out.

63 per of those currently gaining from the Working Time Directive holiday provisions are women, including 3.5 million women working part-time.

But these gains can-not simply be taken for granted. If we were to leave the EU then the government would be able to amend the law on holiday rights – and the experience of the Major years shows that this can mean that the principle of holiday rights for all could simply be  abolished.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady says:

“Millions of working people enjoyed paid holidays in their job for the first time thanks to the rights we won from Europe. And millions more got extra time off to spend with their children and their friends, go away with the family or simply have a well-earned break.

“Decent amounts of holiday pay for all is a relatively recent win, fought for by generations of trade unionists, and guaranteed by the EU. We can’t take it for granted.

“But voting to leave the EU risks the paid holidays of millions. We know that some of the biggest cheerleaders for Brexit see protections for ordinary British workers – like paid holiday – as just red tape to be binned. And we know that bad bosses are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of being able to cut workers’ hard-won entitlements.

“The risk to paid holidays just shows that voting to leave the EU is a step into the unknown for everyone who works for a living.”



4 Responses to 1.5 billion extra days paid holiday thanks to EU rights

  1. pirate3012
    Apr 12th 2016, 1:23 pm

    The working time directive is a regulation agreed at the ILO and so it was adopted by the EU not made by the EU. The EU occupies our seat at this top table, the ILO; out of the EU we could take the seat for ourselves and argue for our our position and not accept the common position negotiated on our behalf by the EU, which may not represent what the UK wants.

    This is the way about 90% of the single market laws are made, according to EFTA.

    Leave the EU and rejoin EFTA to retain access to the single market and to have more control, not less. This referendum is about who governs Britain and, if we remain, it will be the EU. This is the last chance to get off the train bound for the United States of Europe.

  2. Calvin Allen
    Apr 12th 2016, 2:52 pm

    I don’t know from where pirate3012 is getting his or her information, but they couldn’t be more wrong.

    The EU Directive on Working Time is clearly an EU measure, agreed through the EU institutions and subject, by the way, to a strong voice for the European Parliament.

    The ILO does a lot of very good work in promoting labour standards, including on working time dating back to 1919. The trouble is, its Conventions have to be ratified by member governments and the UK has, as far as I can see, ratified not a single one of those the ILO has passed on working time. As we know, the UK government had to be dragged kicking and screaming to implement the EU working time directive – we would not have laws on working time were it not for the EU and this is clearly one of those that will be first in line should we decide to withdraw.

    Further, the ILO’s governance is entirely tripartite, including workers’ representatives alongside those of government. The UK has one of the ten permanent government seats, already; and the EU – well, it is not present. It has no seat at the ILO and clearly is not occupying one in place of the UK.

    As Owen Tudor said on this site last Thursday, workers should be really, really careful about what Brexiteers wish for….

  3. pirate3012
    Apr 12th 2016, 3:43 pm

    He. The EWTD has EEA relevance so if we left the EU and joined EFTA/EEA it would still be applicable.

    “Directive 2003/88/EC (revising the original WTD of 1993) is a key element of the EU’s social policy acquis, based on the Treaty’s ‘health and safety’ legal basis, but also on ILO conventions and other international standards”.

    I am not saying it is not EU law, it is, but more and more EU law is based on regulations agreed at global organisations, so is becoming increasing irrelevant in terms of the rules of the single market. It is an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.

  4. Paul Sellers

    Paul Sellers
    Apr 12th 2016, 3:48 pm

    I can confirm that the Working Time Directive is indeed EU legislation and that its holiday provisions have benefited 7.4 million UK workers.

    I am also a big fan of the work of the ILO, but I ought to point out that the UK government chose not to adopt the ILO convention on paid holidays C.132 (1970).

    and if we had adopted this standard it is hard to see how it would have really helped UK workers, as it would have set a very low bar indeed – “Every person to whom this convention applies shall be entitled to an annual paid holiday of a specified minimum length.” …and that’s it.