Supreme Court ends British Gas holiday pay challenge

Thousands of working people – whose wages include an element of commission – will now be quids in following the Supreme Court decision today (Tuesday) to refuse British Gas the right to appeal in the Joe Lock holiday pay case, says UNISON.

But the union has warned that the decision, based on the Working Time Directive, could be at risk if the UK government opts for a hard Brexit.

Last autumn, the Court of Appeal found in favour of the UNISON-backed case, but British Gas’s decision to continue its challenge meant employees across the UK have had to wait a little longer to learn the outcome.

But now anyone whose wages include an element of commission can no longer be paid less when they are on annual leave. The amount employees get for their holiday must be based on both their basic pay and any commission they earn.

Commenting on the Supreme Court decision, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “It’s taken nearly five years to get here, but now all employees who earn commission will see that reflected in their holiday pay.

“Until now, many whose wages included commission lost a lot of money whenever they took a holiday. Many simply couldn’t afford to go away. Today’s decision puts right that wrong.

“But this is an employment right based on a European directive, something that could well disappear once the UK finds itself outside the EU. The government must prove it’s on the side of ordinary workers by showing how it’s going to protect all rights such as these.”

Notes to editors:
– In October the Court of Appeal confirmed the employment appeal tribunal decision in British Gas Trading Limited v Mr Z J Lock & Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, handed down on 22 February 2016.
– The original tribunal found that domestic legislation could be interpreted in a way that conforms to the requirements of Article 7 of the working time directive. It upheld the similar decision of Bear Scotland & Others v Fulton & Others [2015] ICR 221.
– Mr Lock was employed by British Gas as a salesman and was represented by UNISON. His remuneration package included basic salary plus commission based on the number (and type) of contracts he persuaded customers to sign up to. When he took holiday, he only got his basic pay. This was significantly less than his normal pay and he said it was a disincentive to take annual leave.
– UNISON supported Mr Lock’s claim along with over 700 others currently lodged with an employment tribunal pending the outcome of his case. He first challenged this at an employment tribunal in April 2012. The case was referred to the European Court of Justice that ruled in his favour. It was then referred back to the employment tribunal, which did the same.
– Last October British Gas was unsuccessful in its appeal, and today the Supreme Court put an end to the company’s legal challenge.

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