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EU court rules workers entitled to paid annual leave

[JURIST] The European Court of Justice ruled [judgment] Wednesday that EU workers are entitled to paid annual leave.

The case was brought by a UK worker who had requested pay from his former employer for leave not taken from 1999-2012 in his sales job. The employer claimed under UK Working Time Regulations 1998 Regulation 13(9) [regulation] that the worker was not entitled to carry over leave into a new year.

The court interpreted Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council [text], which was implemented in the UK Working Time Regulations 1998, discussing how organizations manage time in the employment context in its analysis. The court looked specifically to Article 7 of the directive regarding annual leave in their determination:

Article 7: Annual leave
1. Member States shall take the measures necessary to ensure that every worker is entitled to paid annual leave of at least four weeks in accordance with the conditions for entitlement to, and granting of, such leave laid down by national legislation and/or practice.

2. The minimum period of paid annual leave may not be replaced by an allowance in lieu, except where the employment relationship is terminated.

The court first concluded that the language of the directive entitled workers to paid annual leave and the worker does not need to take the leave first before it is determined that they will be compensated for that time.

In regard to the determination of leave made by Member States under Article 7(1), the court clarified that the Member States must not make the right to paid leave "subject to any preconditions whatsoever."

The court recognized the purpose of paid leave as providing a period of rest and relaxation and any act by an employer making compensation during leave uncertain or employment practices that lead an employee to be deterred from taking leave are in direct conflict with this purpose.

The court's final conclusion was that workers who are prevented from taking their annual leave are not subject to laws preventing carryover of that time, are allowed to bring that time into the next year and are entitled to compensation for time remaining upon termination.

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