EU court backs British worker’s claim for 13 years of holiday pay in ‘bombshell’ ruling for gig economy

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The EU’s top court has backed a British window salesman in a bombshell ruling over unpaid holiday during 13 years of employment. The judgment has been described as a “game-changer” for gig-economy workers and a reminder of the “impending disaster” that Brexit will be for employment rights.

Conley King worked was a self-employed worker for a sash window firm from 1999 until he retired in 2012 and had never been paid for annual leave during that time.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled on Wednesday that he was entitled to payment for the time off as well as any leave that he had not taken. Judges added that the right to paid holiday was a “particularly important principle of EU social law”.

European law overrides national provisions on the issue of how long a worker can carry over or accumulate annual leave when an employer has refused to pay, the court ruled.

The Court of Appeal had asked the CJEU whether there was a time limit for Mr King to claim the payment. The EU court decided there wasn’t – a decision which lawyers say could lead to other similar cases being brought.

“An employer that does not allow a worker to exercise his right to paid annual leave must bear the consequences,” the court ruled.

“Furthermore, it is for the employer to seek all information regarding his obligations in regard to paid annual leave.

Dr. Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary of the IWGB union said: “Today’s bombshell judgement from the The Court of Justice of the European Union is a game changer for the so-called ‘gig economy’. 

“The law is now recognising the massive unpaid debt of ‘gig economy’ companies to their workers and IWGB members will be coming to collect.”

Today’s judgment is also a striking reminder of the impending disaster that is Brexit for worker rights.”

The CJEU also found that a worker must be aware their leave will be paid if they are to “fully benefit” from that leave.

In addition, the uncertainty over their rights could dissuade a worker from taking holiday in the first place, it said.

The case will return to the Court of Appeal.