In Greenfield v The Care Bureau Ltd C-219/14, the ECJ held that when a part time worker increased her hours, her employer was not obliged to recalculate any statutory annual leave that had already accrued. The annual leave entitlement only needed to be recalculated to reflect the new working pattern. Leave taken in excess of the entitlement that applied under the original working pattern could be deducted from the leave under the new working pattern.

Facts

Mrs Greenfield was employed by The Care Bureau Ltd (CB) from 15 June 2009. Her working hours and days differed from week to week according to her contract of employment. She was entitled to 5.6 weeks of annual leave each year and the leave year ran from 15 June.

Mrs Greenfield left CB in May 2013.  She took seven days of paid leave in her final leave year. All seven days were taken in July 2012. In the 12 week period prior to taking the leave Mrs Greenfield worked one day per week, which meant that she had taken the equivalent of seven weeks' leave in July 2012. From August 2012, Mrs Greenfield increased her hours of work to 12 days on, 2 days off each fortnight. CB stated that all of Mrs Greenfield's hours, including overtime, would be used to calculate her annual leave entitlement.

In November 2012, Mrs Greenfield requested a week of paid leave. CB informed her that she had exhausted her holiday entitlement in July 2012.  Mrs Greenfield brought a claim for pay in lieu of untaken leave in the employment tribunal (ET).

Employment tribunal and EAT decisions

Mrs Greenfield's claim was allowed by the ET.  CB applied to the ET for a reconsideration of its judgment and appealed to the EAT. The EAT stayed the appeal pending a decision from the ET.

The ET revoked its decision, in part due to a mathematical error in its judgment and in part to make a reference to the ECJ. Mrs Greenfield's argument was that her new working hours should be used to calculate the leave entitlement that had already accrued, even if it had been taken.

ECJ decision

The ECJ held that annual leave must be calculated in accordance with a worker's contractual pattern and the hours and days (or fractions of hours and days) actually worked. There is no requirement to adjust leave already accrued or taken. The new calculation is only for the new working pattern. The purpose of annual leave is rest from the work required under the contract and so annual leave should be calculated with regard to the working pattern under the contract. However, the taking of annual leave accumulated in one period has no connection to the working hours in the later period when leave is actually taken.

The calculation of paid annual leave entitlement is not affected by whether employment has ended or if it is continuing. It is important to distinguish between different periods of different working patterns and to calculate the leave that accumulates in each period separately, taking the same approach whether this is during employment or after it has come to an end.

Comment

The ECJ reached a sensible decision in this case.  There was already an ECJ decision that a reduction from full time to part time working should lead to no reduction in the amount of leave that a worker has already accumulated (Zentralbetriebsrat Landeskrankenhauser v Land Tirol, [2010] IRLR 631). In light of this decision, it is right that the ECJ should find in Mrs Greenfield's case that an increase in hours should not affect the amount of leave that has already accrued.