In the Supreme Court case of Harpur Trust v Brazel (2022) UKSC 21, an important appeal
was raised on the issue of statutory leave requirements for part-year workers. To clarify
part-year employees are those with ongoing contracts who work a variety of hours only
during certain weeks of the year.
The facts were that Mrs Brazel, a music teacher at a school, run by the Harpur Trust, was
employed on a permanent contract but for term times only. Mrs Brazel was accepted as a
worker by Harpur Trust, and as such, she was entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave per
year, provided she took her annual leave during the school holidays, when she was not
required to teach. However, Harpur Trust argued that to account for the weeks not worked,
a part-year employees holiday entitlement needed to be further pro-rated. This was the
reasoning behind Harpur Trust changing its way of calculating her holiday pay to the
percentage method of calculating her pay according to 12.07 of her usual pay. The new
calculation meant that Mrs Brazel was essentially being paid less than she had previously
The Supreme Court rejected the trust’s claims and confirmed that part-year employees,
regardless of their working hours and regardless of the proportion of each year they work,
are fully entitled to the 5.6 weeks of vacation time. Additionally, their holiday pay must be
based on the calendar week method of averaging a week’s working hours. Since there was
no provision in the Working Time Regulation of 1998 allowing for pro-rated holiday
entitlement for part-year employees.
The Supreme Court acknowledged that this approach favoured workers who work unusual
hours, but it does not result in an irrational outcome that necessitates a complete overhaul
of the legal framework. Furthermore, the Supreme Court found several flaws in the Harpur
Trust’s proposed methods of pro-rating a part-time worker, which would have necessitated
complicated calculations, requiring all employers to keep detailed records of every hour
worked, even if they are not paid on an hourly basis.
Thus, the decision only impacts workers engaged in permanent part-year contracts.
Particularly the education sector, where many individuals work term time only, e.g.,
teachers with irregular hours or those in the education sectors. As a result of this Supreme
Court ruling, potentially employers could face claims of unlawful deduction from wages,
which could go back up to two years.
It should be noted that the average casual worker on a zero-hour contract will be
unaffected, as they will only be entitled to paid vacation based on the number of weeks
worked. Moreover, part-time employees who work 52 weeks a year but for fewer hours or
days than full-time employees can also have their vacation calculated pro rata. Furthermore,
it does not affect fixed-term employees, whose holidays will continue to be calculated pro-
rata for the duration of the contract.