In an important decision for the oil and gas industry, the Employment Appeal Tribunal ("EAT") has reversed a previous decision that “field breaks”, that is time spent onshore by offshore workers, cannot count towards statutory minimum holiday entitlement.
The EAT held by a majority that offshore workers can be required to take annual leave during field breaks, provided employers comply with the notice procedure specified in the Working Time Regulations 1998 ("WTR"). The EAT stated it was irrelevant that industry work patterns meant employees would not otherwise have been working during field breaks. The crucial point was that employees are not obligated to work during field breaks and are free to take annual leave in this period.
To comply with the notice requirements employers of offshore workers should either:
- give employees advance notice at the start of each leave year that annual leave must be taken during field breaks; or
- establish collective agreements or work force agreements which state when annual leave must be taken; or
- include an express provision in each individual contract of employment that annual leave must be taken to coincide with field breaks.
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