EU ruling on holiday pay could open the floodgates for compensation claims in the UK. Susannah Kirkman reports
A NEW ruling by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg could force employers to give holiday pay to supply teachers.
According to a spokeswoman for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, all private supply agencies will either have to increase their daily rates or give teachers holiday pay.
The judgment says that the UK Government has wrongly implemented the European Union working time directive, which has set a minimum of four weeks' annual leave for workers in Europe. UK workers are only entitled to paid holidays after 13 weeks' continuous employment with the same employer.
Unions believe the Government will now have to bring UK law into line with European legislation or it could face compensation claims from millions of workers.
The ruling will mainly benefit supply teachers employed by private agencies. Local education authorities already give extra pay in lieu of holidays to supply teachers on a daily rate and to teachers on contracts of less than a term.
Practice varies enormously among supply agencies. Some, like TimePlan, already follow the LEA procedure of paying staff 1195th of an annual salary per day to allow for holiday pay.
"I doubt if many other agencies would even know how LEAs pay supply teachers," commented Tish Seabourne, a director of TimePlan.
"We see holiday pay as part of being competitive," said a spokeswoman for Education Staffing Link, a smaller Birmingham-based agency which also offers the same deal as LEAs. "We say that we are caring and we try to demonstrate that in the way we treat our staff."
Teachers working for Supply and Demand, a Bournemouth-based agency, receive holiday pay as part of a bonus scheme linked to the number of days they work per term. If they worked a full term for the agency, for instance, they would receive 15 per cent of their earnings as holiday pay. This would probably be illegal under new legislation.
"We didn't know of the ruling so we haven't given any consideration to it. How do local authorities pay supply teachers?" asked a spokeswoman for Supply and Demand. "It's very difficult because people can work for more than one agency and they can also work for an LEA."
Top Form, a London agency, and ERN, the only Welsh agency, both said they would be changing their holiday pay systems to bring them in line with any new legislation.
Holiday pay is non-existent in Rob Smith's experience. Mr Smith is a Buckinghamshire teacher with 30 years' experience who has worked for a number of agencies.
When he works for a local authority, Mr Smith gets pound;125 a day, which includes holiday pay. From an agency he gets between pound;90 and pound;100. "The agencies can charge and pay what they like. They have a complete stranglehold over the industry," he said.
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
'Annual leave is a particularly important principle of social law from which there can be no derogations by member states. The right applies to all sectors of activity, and no distinction can be drawn between workers employed under a contract of indefinite duration and those employed under a fixed-term contract.'