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Rolled up holiday pay still illegal for most summer school contracts, UK government confirms

A Gazette exclusive: how do the new rules on rolled up holiday pay affect you? Melanie Butler reports…

It is still illegal for most UK summer schools to pay rolled up holiday pay, the Department of Business and Trade has told the Gazette.  

This advice follows a change in the law which came into effect on 1 January this year. The new regulations lift the ban on rolled up paid holiday and the use of the figure of 12.07% to accrue it, but the new rules only apply to two specific groups of workers: part-year workers, and irregular hours workers.

Many language schools have assumed that the changes applied to summer school staff. After all, they only work part of the year, so they must be part-year workers, right?

The Department of Business and Trade, which is responsible for the implementation of the new holiday pay law, has told the Gazette this is not always the case.  

‘Whether a worker meets the definition of a part-year worker depends on the precise nature of their working pattern,’ an official replied. ‘It’s possible for a worker on a fixed-term contract to be a part-year worker if there is a break of at least a week [during the length of the contract] where the worker does not work and is not paid.’

What does that actually mean in practice? To find out, we sent them three summer school scenarios to comment on…

In the first scenario, we laid out the typical summer school summer arrangements: staff get fixed term contracts for two to four weeks, where the only break is one day off per week. In this case, the Department told us rolled up holiday pay could not be used because, ‘a worker would not be defined as a part-year worker if there is no break in pay and work during the length of the contract’.

What about year-round short-course operators which offer one contract covering more than one course taking place at different times of the year? This might be made up of a spring course for two weeks over Easter, followed by another six week course in the summer. There is, therefore, an unpaid period when no work is done between the end of the Easter school holidays and the beginning of the summer holidays. The official response was yes on the grounds that during the length of the contract ‘there is a period of at least a week where the person is not paid and does not work’.

But further investigation shows that, where Easter holiday courses in 2024 are concerned, there is a catch: rolled up holiday pay can only be used where the contracts make reference to ‘leave years beginning on or after 1 April 2024’. If the contract does not contain a leave year, the job must begin on or after that date; a bit of a problem this year because Easter Sunday falls on 29 April.

Finally, we asked the Department of Business and Trade what would be the case if, say, the worker who was under contract was paid for two days online training and commenced working seven days afterwards? They told us ‘a worker would qualify as a part-year worker if there is a period of at least a week where the person is not paid and does not work (seven days between training and starting the first course)’.

The rule seems to be, at least according to the government, that you can only roll up holiday pay – or use the figure of 12.07% to accrue it – where one contract covers at least two separate periods of paid work with a period in between them, of at  least seven days, when the worker neither works nor get paid.

For more information on rolled up holiday pay reforms, click here.

Image courtesy of Scott Graham
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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