Holiday Pay – Making Sure You Know Your Rights

holidayThe summer holidays are upon us and no doubt you are counting the days until you can dust off the sunglasses , stick your ‘out of office’ on and head off to sunnier climates for a well deserved break!


But before you go, are you aware of what your legal entitlement to holiday leave and pay is? Here we provide you with the answers to some questions you may have about holiday pay…

How much holiday pay am I entitled to?

Workers have a right by law to at least 5.6 weeks paid annual leave – this is basically 28 days paid holiday for a five day working week.   This right comes from the Working Time Regulations (NI) 1998.

The main things you should know about your rights to holiday leave are:
  • You should get a minimum of 5.6 weeks paid annual leave if you work full time.
  • If you are a part-time worker, you are entitled to the same level of holiday pro rata.
  • Your entitlement to holiday pay starts to build as soon as you start work.
  • Your employer can control when your holidays are taken.
  • If you leave your job, annual leave days that you have accrued but not taken will be paid.
  • Your employer can include bank and/or public holidays as part of the 5.6 weeks leave.
  • You are entitled to holiday leave throughout ordinary and additional maternity leave, paternity and adoption leave
Should commission be included in my holiday pay?

When you are off on holiday, you are entitled to be paid your normal salary.

However, there was a recent case (known as Z.J.R Lock v British Gas Trading Ltd and Others) where the European Court looked at whether holiday pay should only be based on normal salary or whether it should include commission also.

The Court decided that there was an entitlement to holiday pay based on both normal salary and commission as otherwise it would put people off taking holidays if they were to lose out on commission payments.

This case is still ongoing as the manner in which commission is calculated has yet to be finalised by the Court.

Should overtime be included in my holiday pay?

There was recently the case of Bear Scotland & Ors v Fulton & Ors which concerned whether or not overtime payments should be included in the calculation of holiday pay or not. It was held that guaranteed overtime payments were to be included in holiday pay.

Each case must be looked at on its own facts and therefore it would be necessary to seek legal advice if you had any query about how much holiday pay you are entitled to.
Happy Holidays!
If you require any further information this area, please feel free to contact Mary gavin at MGAVIN@FHANNA.CO.UK or leave your comments below.

LIFE BITE: How Private are your Private Emails in the Workplace?

apple-150579_1280Have you ever wondered whether your boss is legally permitted to read personal emails that you have sent to friends and family from your work email account?

Well, in light of a recent Court judgment it seems that they are.

In  the judgment of the case of Barbulescu v Romania which was handed down on 12th January 2016 by the The European Court of Human Rights, the Court held that there is no violation of your right to respect for private life and correspondence if your employer monitors personal emails that you send whilst at work .

What is expected of an employee and an employer is usually set out in the contract of employment.  However,  a contract does not have to be in writing and terms can be established in a manner of ways, either expressly, impliedly or through custom and practice.

It should not be that surprising that an implied term of a contract of employment is that when an employee is at work,  they should devote all of their time and attention to their work, not privately messaging friends or loved ones or using the internet for their own personal matters. Many employers have specific email and internet policies in place to counter such misuse.

In this particular case,  Mr Barbulescu was an engineer who used a Yahoo Messenger account, specifically set up for business purposes, to send and receive personal messages with his fiancée and his brother.  His employer, discovering this accidentally, dismissed him considering it to be in breach of his employment contract

Mr Barbulescu argued that the Romanian courts should have excluded all evidence of his personal correspondence on the grounds it infringed his Article 8 right that is the right to respect for private life and correspondence.   Mr Carbulescu’s employer’s internal regulations strictly prohibited employees from using the company’s computers and resources for personal purposes however, it was disputed whether the Mr Barbulescu had been given prior notice that his communications could have been monitored and their content accessed and eventually disclosed.

The issue before the ECJ was whether the right to respect for private life and correspondence is breached if employers monitor employees’ personal communications at work? The answer was a resounding no, subject to reasonableness/proportionality.

The ECJ held that although Article 8 was engaged,  the Romanian courts were entitled to look at that evidence in deciding whether Mr Barbulescu’s dismissal was fair.  The European Court was persuaded by the fact that the Romanian court judgement did not reveal the precise content of the personal messages, but only that they were personal messages.   Also, only the Yahoo Messenger account, which the parties agreed was set up for business purposes was accessed by his employer – not other documents and data stored on Mr Barbulescu’s computer.

The Court therefore found “that it is not unreasonable for an employer to want to verify that the employees are completing their professional tasks during working hours.”

MGavinThis Life Bite was provided by Mary Gavin, Associate Solicitor in the Employment Law Department  of Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors.  If you would like further informaiotn on this area of law, please contact Mary Gavin on or contact us at Life Law NI here.

The Office Christmas Party: Jingle Bells or Alarm Bells??

office-partyMary Gavin, Associate Solicitor in the Employment Law department of Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors has provided us with this guest blog on some steps employers should take to ensure an incident-free Christmas party _____________________________________________________________________________________

As the festive season fast approaches, many employers and employees look forward to enjoying a Christmas dinner with colleagues ……at the expense of the boss!

Most parties pass off without incident, (perhaps the odd blush) but others can have dramatic consequences which not only sour the party mood but can jeopardise an employee’s livelihood.
The relaxed atmosphere may prompt individuals to behave in a way which would never arise or be tolerated in the workplace. They may act inappropriately towards another colleague whether by unwanted advances or aggressive conduct. They may harass another colleague under the guise of “banter” or perhaps attend the workplace the following morning whilst still under the influence.

So, what can you do as an employer to prevent bad behaviour from your staff at the Christmas office party?

Prior to the office Christmas party, an employer should provide a clear policy on the standards of behaviour expected and what kinds of behaviour are unacceptable.  It may seem that reiterating that abusive behaviour will not be tolerated is stating the obvious however, the old adage of when “the drink’s in the wit’s out” couldn’t be more relevant at this time of year.  A reminder should be given in writing that instances of misconduct will not be tolerated at a work-related events and employees should be left in no doubt that such behaviour may lead to disciplinary action or potentially dismissal.

On the issue of alcohol, an employer should consider monitoring employees’ intake of alcohol not only if an individual appears to have had “one too many” but to ensure that the intended generosity is not used as an aggravating factor which the employee holds the employer responsible for.

No one wants to put a dampener on the festivities,  but employers should be aware that they can be held liable for the acts of their employees if an act is deemed to have been committed in the course of employment.   An office Christmas party is inextricably linked to employment so caution must be exercised.  Consideration should also be given to how individuals are getting home and appropriate advice or arrangements made.

The above is not an exhaustive guide as to the steps that can be taken to prevent employees from behaving inappropriately and it should be borne in mind that a potential Tribunal case will not only be brought against the perpetrator of the behaviour but also the employer.  Having a clear policy in place is evidence that reasonable steps were taken by an employer to prevent inappropriate behaviour from occurring.

Any employer is loath to turn a celebratory event which is ultimately an acknowledgement of employees’ hard work throughout the year into something where an employee could risk facing disciplinary sanctions!  But staff should be aware that they must conduct themselves at the same level of any work-related event. In short, just because it is a “party” it does not mean it is an exception to the usual policies and procedures that would apply in the workplace.

MGavinMary Gavin is an Associate with Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors. If you have any queries in relation to any employment law matter she can be contacted on 90234901 or at

LIFE BITE: Sexism at Work

apple-150579_1280There has been much comment in the media in recent weeks on allegations of sexism in the workplace.   

When Charlotte Proudman, a UK human rights barrister received a LinkedIn message from Alexander Carter-Silk, a senior partner at a law firm, praising her on what he called her ‘stunning’ profile picture, she responded by telling him she found his message offensive and adding that she was using LinkedIn for business purposes, rather than to be  “objectified by sexist men”.

Ms Proudman linked the incident to what she saw as a larger issue of sexual harassment in her profession and posted the comment made onto her Twitter account causing a social media wave of opinion.

In other news this week, Ms Dalal Belghiti, a former City trader, is taking legal action against her former employer, the US investment bank Jefferies, claiming that she was discriminated against on the grounds of her sex and exposed to sexist behaviour on the trading floor which caused her to leave her job.  She is seeking £3.5 million in compensation from her former employer.

What is sex discrimination in the workplace?

Sexism, or sex discrimination, can take many forms in the workplace. It can be direct, indirect, deliberate or accidental. For example, it can occur when you are treated differently or less favourably than a member of the opposite sex. It can also occur where you are put at a disadvantage because of your gender due to certain provisions, criteria or practices that your employer has.

Sexual harassment can occur when your employer, fellow employee of even a third party such as a customer or client behave in an offensive manner towards you because of your sex.

Employers who do nothing to stop sex discrimination in their businesses may themselves be held legally responsible for this discrimination.

What should I do if I have been discriminated against?

If you have been the victim of sexual discrimination in your workplace, or indeed if you have been discriminated against at work in any way, you should seek legal advice on the procedure that needs to be followed to resolve the matter. If the matter is not resolved satisfactorily by your employer, you may be able to seek compensation through the Industrial Tribunal.

As always, if you would like any further information on this issue, please contact us using the form below or send an email to

LIFE BITE: Slagging off your Boss on Social Media?? Think Twice!!

apple-150579_1280Okay,  so you don’t particularly like your job – the hours suck, your boss is a bit of a pain and you’d generally much rather be somewhere else.

But be very careful before taking to Facebook to vent your frustrations!

In the case of British Waterways Board v Smith, it was held that it was fair to dismiss an employee for making derogatory comments about his work managers and work in general on Facebook, even despite the employee’s claim that the comments made were untrue.

Mr Smith had basically taken to social media to vent his annoyance and frustrations with his work and managers.    He used what can only be described as offensive language when referring to managers and had claimed that two years earlier, he had been drinking whilst on standby duty (vodka and apple juice to be precise) which he referred to as “not to shabby” (sic).

Whilst Mr Smith denied that he had been drinking and claimed that the comments were ‘banter’, he was dismissed from work on the ground of gross misconduct as his comments had undermined the confidence his employer or the public could have in him.

It was initially found by the Employment Tribunal that Mr Smith’s employer should have considered that his comments were exaggerated or not true however, the Employment Appeal Tribunal overturned that decision and held that the dismissal was fair.

Employees should be careful about what they post on social media as although comments regarding work may be meant as a joke or used as an avenue to express frustration, they can have drastic results!

MGavinTHIs ‘Life Bite’ was provided BY MARY GAVIN who is aN EMPLOYMENT LAW Solicitor at Francis Hanna & Co.    If you require Employment Law advice please contact Mary Gavin on 028 90243901 or email at