Spinning through the holidays?

The Minister for Employment and Learning, the UUP leader Reg Empey, has apparently announced [Official statement to follow? – Ed] that workers here are to get at least 8 extra statutory holidays added to their entitled amount – in two stages beginning in April 2009 October 2007. Although it’s not quite as straight-forward as it might seem. It’s less than the 10 extra days announced in January this year by then-Secretary of State for Wales etc, Peter Hain – also to be implemented in two stages.. starting in October 2007. Despite Reg Empey’s claim noted in the BBC report that “There was little or no consultation” about that previously announced measure.. a period of consultation on it just ended on 13 May 2007.. and that was the second consultation on the measures – there was an initial consultation from 28 July 2006 to 19 October 2006. Updated Official statement here Adds As the official statement also points out, those initial reports were wrong

The increase will be implemented in two phases: from 20 days a year to 24 days from 1 October 2007 and to 28 days from 1 April 2009.

Either that or whoever they spoke to was mis-informed.. [The Minister – Ed]From the 2nd consultation document [pdf file]

Increasing the entitlement

23. Under these proposals, the statutory entitlement to paid holiday will increase:

i. From 4 weeks to 4.8 weeks on 1 October 2007, and;
ii. From 4.8 weeks to 6 weeks on 1 October 2008.

24. The maximum statutory holiday entitlement will be 30 days.

The same consultation document includes this section

Impact on business of increased holiday

17. Many staff already receive at least the equivalent of 6 weeks’ paid holiday and there should be minimal impact on employers that already give their staff 6 weeks’ leave, or give 4 weeks’ leave in addition to paid bank holiday leave. The cost of increasing the leave for an individual member of staff from 4 weeks to 6 weeks is approximately 4% of employers’ wage costs. Research carried out by the Department of Trade and Industry (“DTI”) indicates that the policy cost of implementing an additional 8 days in GB would be around £3.2bn – £4.4bn. This would, pro-rata, give an indicative cost in NI of around £140m for 10 days.

18. GB research also suggests that some sectors will be more affected than others, with the hospitality and retail sectors particularly affected. The impact on individual small businesses may be significant as it may be harder for them to absorb the additional costs. Smaller businesses are most likely to be affected.

19. There will also be administrative costs both in introducing the increase in holiday and in managing an increased holiday entitlement. To implement the proposals, employers affected would be required by the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 to notify staff in writing of the changes to holiday entitlements. This notification, however, does not need to be personalised and may take the form of a circular notice that goes to every affected member of staff, or a statement on a payslip. To support employers in implementing the changes, the Department proposes to make available a ready-reckoner for the new holiday entitlement, which it believes will reduce the administrative costs of the changes.

20. The Department has sought to minimise the impact on businesses that give their staff the equivalent of 6 weeks’ holiday already. Under the proposed Regulations, the Department believes that there would be no impact on those that currently give 30 days (or 20 days plus bank and public holidays) except:

i. Where a worker is required by his employer to take leave on bank and public holidays as part of his statutory holiday entitlement and the bank or public holiday happens to fall whilst he is on some other form of leave (such as maternity or sick leave). In such circumstances, he would generally be entitled to take another day off instead so as not to be deprived of his statutory entitlement, or;

ii. Where an employer allows payment to be made in lieu of taking leave in excess of the current 4 week statutory entitlement. Under the proposed Regulations, it would not be permissible to give payment in lieu of any of the proposed 6 week leave entitlement, although payment in lieu would still be permissible for contractual holiday in excess of 6 weeks.

Adds From Peter Hain’s statement on 29 January 2007

An increase would move NI workers’ annual leave entitlement closer to that of workers in other European countries, where holiday allowance is typically more generous. Compared with the current minimum allowance of 20 days in NI, for example, workers in the Republic of Ireland are entitled to 29 days; the highest minimum entitlement is in Austria at 38 days.

Update Far from there being “little or no consultation” as the Minister claimed, the official statement points out that it was on the basis of the response to the second consultation that the proposals were altered.

The Department had initially proposed to increase the holiday entitlement by 10 days in Northern Ireland (pro-rata for part-time workers), as opposed to eight days in Great Britain, to reflect the number of bank and public holidays here. However, following the response to the second consultation, and to allow further consideration of the cost implications of the additional two days, it is now proposed that the minimum entitlement here will be increased initially by eight days in line with provisions in Great Britain. Further consultation and impact assessments will consider whether Northern Ireland’s additional holiday entitlement should eventually be 10 days.