Music teacher Lesley Brazel wins case against her employer, securing guaranteed minimum holiday pay for all workers 


The UK Supreme Court has ruled that all workers in the UK will now receive the same minimum level of paid annual leave, even if they only work during school term times, thanks to the efforts of a music teacher. 

The case, Harpur Trust v Brazel, was brought by Lesley Brazel against her employer the Harpur Trust after it changed the way it calculated holiday pay. Brazel argued that her employer was wrong to give her fewer days of annual leave than the legal minimum because she only worked during the school term. 

According to government guidelines, anyone who falls within the bracket of ‘worker’ under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (the WTR) is entitled to 5.6 weeks’ holiday pay. Before September 2011, Brazel’s holiday pay was determined by calculating the average pay she received a week (ignoring any weeks in which she did not receive any pay) and multiplying it by 5.6.  

From September 2011, Brazel’s employer changed the way it calculated her pay, giving her 12.07% (the percentage of 5.6 weeks when taken from the total working year of 46.4 weeks) of her hours worked per term as holiday pay. This calculation saw the trust facing claims by Brazel of unlawful deductions from her wages by underpayment of holiday pay. 

The judges unanimously found in favour of Brazel, commenting that ‘the idea of leave accruing over the year as and when hours are worked was inconsistent with the WTR.’

In an interview with the Guardian, Brazel said: ‘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.’ 

Brazel is a member of the UK’s professional body for musicians, ISM, which, with the help of trade union UNISON, has been supporting Brazel through her nine-year lawsuit. ISM’s chief executive Deborah Annetts announced on Twitter: ‘So pleased that Supreme Court found for our member Mrs Brazel today and backed our reading of the law on holiday pay. This follows nine years in the courts during which @ISM_music supported Mrs B every step of the way. This is what the ISM does. We fight for our members.’ 

In another tweet Annetts said: ‘Following the Brazel case there could be many hundreds of music teachers and others who have been underpaid holiday pay. If you are an ISM member check with us to see if you have a claim @ISM_music.’

The ruling now means that all workers are owed the same legal minimum of 5.6 weeks holiday (28 days for full-time employees), even if there are months in the year that they do not work.