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Should you be getting holiday pay?

Should you be getting holiday pay?

© david woods

30 September 2019

Many UK freelances and casuals are entitled to holiday pay in law, but an NUJ survey found that almost nine in 10 did not receive it.

Are you losing out?

The NUJ has been successful in winning holiday pay and backpay for many of its members.

In the UK, workers are entitled to paid holiday of 5.6 weeks a year, equivalent to 28 days for someone on a five-day week.  Many members are labelled “casual” or “self-employed”, but they work in ways that gives them worker status.  


You could be a worker and entitled to paid holiday if:

  • You do most of your work for one organisation (you may also be eligible if you work for more than one organisation)..
  • You work under any contract (it doesn’t need to be in writing) to do the work personally.
  • You do shifts in a workplace.
  • Someone else controls your work, when and how you do it.

Paid holiday is an important social right and going without breaks can threaten your health.

Our latest members’ survey showed that 88 per cent of freelances did not receive it. Organisations often use standard contracts stating the person is self-employed or an independent contractor. The union has successfully disputed this, winning members holiday entitlement and backpay.

The NUJ arranges twice-monthly legal surgeries for members with Thompsons Solicitors. If you think you may fit the criteria, get in touch and we can advise you confidentially. If, within the last three months, you have stopped working for a particular organisation, we can also help.  Contact us at

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"The proportion of freelances in our industry is greater than at any time, and many are denied holiday pay to which they are legally entitled. In court, the NUJ has secured holiday pay for numerous casuals and other regular freelances. We will continue to pursue such cases when they arise. More than 80 years after workers won the right to holiday pay, how much better it would be if media companies accepted their responsibilities and gave those who diligently apply their talents the paid rest they deserve."

People who work excessive hours are at risk of developing heart disease, stress, mental illness, strokes and diabetes, which also affect their co-workers, friends, and relatives.

Employees who take regular holidays are more motivated about their work and more likely to perform more effectively than those who take very little leave. They are also less likely to have an accident in the workplace.  Stress levels can rise when people do not have time away from work and a holiday can be time when people can catch up on sleep.

A report by the New Economics Foundation said that Increasing the wages of workers and giving them more time off to spend them is key to raising the UK’s productivity

Case study

The NUJ has won an important tribunal victory on behalf of a freelance member, David Walsh, who was awarded £8,360 based on his right to holiday pay.  He had worked on a casual basis for Scotsman Publications Ltd for a number of years and, although he had asked for holiday pay on several occasions, it was refused on the grounds that he was self-employed. The company relied on its standard freelance contract, which states that the freelance is self-employed and an independent contractor. An employment tribunal ruled that the reality of the working relationship was different, and that David met the statutory definition of ‘worker’. By meeting this definition, he was entitled to paid holidays. Full story

Download the briefing for M/FoCs on employment status

Download the Holiday Pay flier

Download a poster for your office

Download the campaign Twitter image

Contact for campaign leaflets and advice.


Tags: , holiday pay, pay, freelance, campaign, employment status, worker status, casual


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