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UK Supreme Court makes landmark decision in favour of peripatetic teachers’ holiday pay

Thousands of peripatetic teachers could see their holiday pay improve following a judgement against the Harpur Trust by the UK’s Supreme Court

Music teacher Lesley Brazel had argued that her employer, the Harpur Trust, was underpaying her holiday entitlement because they did not count her as being employed outside school term-time. They believed that as she was on a zero-hour permanent contract, they needed only to pay holiday remuneration on the weeks during term-time. The Harpur Trust had appealed against an earlier decision. 

But the Court of Appeal decided that, under the terms of the Working Time Regulations and Part-time workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment), the permanent nature of the part-year contract meant her holiday pay should be calculated from her average earnings and not pro-rated. 

Harpur fought on but their case was dismissed by the Supreme Court, which ruled that, although working part-time, because she had a year-round contract, she was due the same paid holiday as employees working all year, at least 5.6 weeks. 

The case became a cause celebre for the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) which backed their member’s case through the courts over a number of years, and at considerable expense. 

As the ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said, ‘This is a landmark decision from the Supreme Court and is likely to have ramifications for thousands of workers. Many of those will be in low-paid and insecure jobs.

‘We hope that this verdict will mean that any other worker who has not received their proper holiday pay entitlement will now see it changed in line with this judgment. Music teachers often go above and beyond for their students but all too often they are not treated in the way they deserve.

‘I’m delighted for Mrs Brazel and pay tribute to her determination over many years. Others will benefit thanks to her. I would also like to thank the ISM legal team who support members every day and I am very proud of the ISM team for the work they do. This result could not have been achieved without the help and support of a wider legal team funded by the ISM’s legal expenses insurance, which is available to all ISM members.’

Lesley Brazel has been teaching at the school for over 20 years and was previously a student there, but she decided to fight what she saw as deliberate underpayment of her contracted fees. 

‘As an alumna of the school where I have now been teaching for over 20 years, pursuing a career I am passionate about, it has been personally challenging for me to see through this long and arduous case.

‘I am pleased to have secured my holiday pay rights, in accordance with the law and my contract of employment, in the highest court in the country. I hope that others can now benefit from this verdict.

‘I would like to thank my legal team and the ISM for their support over many years – this would not have been possible without them.’

Although this bodes well for many part-time teachers, it poses serious issues for cash-strapped schools, many of whom may now have to restructure their contracts for peripatetic staff.