Civil court is on vacation when it comes to holiday pay
Sheriff Court rules that civil courts no jurisdiction to hear claims for statutory holiday pay
We successfully defended a test case for holiday pay raised against a major uk logistics business. Drivers had asserted that holiday pay ought to have been calculated with reference to their overtime earnings and shift allowance and not just restricted to their basic pay. The drivers failed to bring Employment Tribunal claims within the 3 month time limit and accordingly the drivers brought a test civil claim in the Sheriff Court (where a 5 year time limit applies to breach of contract claims). We defended that claim on the basis that the drivers had no contractual right to statutory holiday pay; the drivers were asserting statutory rights which required to be heard in the Employment Tribunal; and that the civil court had no jurisdiction to hear these claims even if they were out of time in the Employment Tribunal. Following a hearing on the legal merits, the Sheriff accepted our arguments and dismissed the driver’s claim with an award of expenses in favour of our clients. This decision has significant implications for the thousands of claims for statutory holiday pay brought before 8 January 2015 and dramatically restricts the time limit for bring a claim from a possible 5 years (6 years in England and Wales) to 3 months.
The date of 8 January 2015 is significant because the Working Time Regulations were amended from that date to expressly state that the Regulations themselves do not confer a contractual right to statutory holiday pay. However even after 8 January 2015 it’s still possible for employers themselves to confer such a contractual right either intentionally or inadvertently and holiday pay provisions should be drafted very carefully to avoid this risk.
The status of statutory holiday pay under the Working Time Regulations therefore stands in stark contrast to the status of equal pay under the Equality Act 2010. Following the Supreme Court decision in Birmingham City Council v Abdulla equal pay claims can be brought with the civil courts within 5 years (6 years in England and Wales) as well as the employment tribunal. The material difference being that the Equality Act expressly introduces a sex equality clause into every contract of employment. There are no such equivalent provisions in the Working Time Regulations.
Should you require any advice and assistance regarding civil claims please contact Gillian Craig.
Should you require any advice and assistance regarding employment matters please contact Michelle Sutherland.