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As the August Bank Holiday approaches, a new law is to be introduced which will force employers to give more time off to employees. The Working Time Regulations 1998 currently entitle workers to four weeks' paid holiday each year. As there is no statutory entitlement to paid bank holidays, some employers only pay employees on such days by including it as part of their annual leave. The new law will increase holiday entitlement from 4 weeks to 5.6 weeks each year, which is equivalent to receiving 4 weeks plus the bank holidays.

Employers who currently provide their employees with paid bank holidays in addition to the statutory 4 weeks will be unaffected by the new law because they are already providing holiday entitlement equivalent to what the new law will introduce. However, to provide more time for affected employers to adjust and prepare for the change, the additional holiday entitlement will be introduced in two stages: from October 2007 holiday entitlement will increase to 4.8 weeks and from 1 April 2009 the full 5.6 weeks will be introduced.

Employees currently forced to include public holidays in their holiday entitlement will see this as good news. Even so, recent research suggests that the UK lags behind many other European countries when it comes to providing paid holiday. A study by Mercer HR Consulting found that the UK fell within the bottom four of a league table of annual holiday entitlement provided by 27 EU states. The research also revealed that holiday entitlement can vary by up to 16 days depending on the country. Even taking into account the full increase which will be effective from 1 April 2009, employees in the UK can expect only 28 days off a year, compared with the 44 enjoyed by Finnish workers.

As Tony Hyams-Parish, Partner and Head of Employment at leading Southeast law firm Rawlison Butler LLP, explains: “Some time ago a number of unions expressed their concern that some employers were avoiding their obligations under the Working Time Regulations by including public holidays in an employee’s annual entitlement. The new law will simply place these employees on a level playing field with many other employees who already get 4 weeks in addition to public holidays.”

For companies that choose to ignore this change in the law, there will be penalties. Tony Hyams-Parish adds: “If employers fail to offer the increased holiday entitlement, employees can complain to the Employment Tribunals under the Working Time Regulations, or worst still, resign and claim that they have been constructively dismissed, for which compensation can run into tens of thousands of pounds.”

Many employers will view the new law as creating more ‘red tape’ which takes away from businesses the right to exercise their discretion as to the amount of additional holiday to give to employees. For many small businesses the cost of providing the additional holiday will be another important factor they will want to consider.

Simon Curtis, Director of CIP Recruitment, explains: "We provide temporary workers to a wide variety of clients, most of whom only offer statutory minimum holidays to our workers. This means that at the moment most of our workers get 20 days holiday including bank holidays. We are currently working with all our clients to ensure that the new statutory minimum requirements are being applied in time, so that all workers will get at least 24 days holiday from 1 October and 28 days from April 2009."

For further information on the impact these changes will have on employers and employees, contact Rawlison Butler at www.rawlisonbutler.com

For further press information please contact:

Glen Goldsmith
Mobile: 07812 766 338
Email: glen@2thefore.biz

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