The summer holiday season is in full swing, and working people up and down the country are taking time off to visit friends and family, travel or simply relax.
But a new report has revealed that a large swathe of workers – as many as 1.7m – are missing out on the full paid holiday leave that they are legally entitled to.
For those working five-day weeks, workers are entitled to a minimum of four weeks of paid holiday each year.
But the TUC has discovered that just over six per cent of the workforce are losing out on their paid holidays because of unscrupulous employers flouting the law.
Workers in different regions miss out on their holiday entitlements more than others – in Northern Ireland almost 10 per cent of workers don’t take their full paid annual leave, a figure that stands at 7.6 per cent in Wales and 7.5 per cent in London.
Missed holiday entitlements are most common in the arts and entertainment sector, followed by accommodation and food, and administration and support services – sectors that are all notoriously low-paid.
The TUC argues that with prime minister David Cameron seeking an opt-out from the EU’s working time directive, holiday rights are at even graver risk.
In 1998, the EU’s working time directive, which mandates a minimum number of holidays each year, rest breaks, a maximum number of weekly work hours and a cap on excessive night work, was extended to all UK workers for the first time.
“As people head off on their holidays, spare a thought for those still stuck at work with bad bosses who break the law by denying staff their full holiday,” said TUC Frances O’Grady in response to its report.
“Some employers deliberately stop staff from taking the leave and holiday pay they’re entitled to, whereas other workers lose out from poor management and failure to keep up with the law,” she added.
“Workers should not be cheated out of their holidays through illegal and unfair practices by employers. We are in danger of seeing a burnout Britain where workers feel pressured to give up their holidays and increase their hours.
“Workers who are worried about not getting their holiday entitlements should join a union, so that their voice is heard and their interests are properly represented.”
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner agreed.
“Paid annual leave, restrictions on how many hours each day or week can be worked, even ‘the weekend’ – these are not natural features of the world of work dominated by capital,” he said.
“Rather, they are rights that were fought for and won by unions and their members. And they can just as easily be clawed back by private profiteers and vested interests if we don’t remain vigilant – joining a union now is more important than ever before.”
Turner highlighted the importance of the EU labour protections that the Tory government is now threatening to undo.
“As Cameron takes aim at the EU’s working time directive, holiday entitlements will be even further at risk, consigning British workers to the status of drones.
“Britain’s productivity already lags well behind many of its European counterparts – cuts to holiday entitlements will make this phenomenon even worse. Research has proven time and again that well-rested employees make for engaged employees committed to their jobs,” he added.
“Relentless overworking contributes not only to family breakdown and its associated social ills, but it also leads to physical and mental health problems and shortened lifespans. Is this the sort of world we want to live in?”