Case Law: Offshore workers’ holiday is enough

Employers in the offshore gas and oil sector have overturned an employment tribunal judgment that said they should provide more annual leave for offshore workers.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal, which heard the case Craig & others vs Transocean & others, found that the holiday enjoyed by offshore workers, typically 26 weeks a year, met the minimum amount of leave they were entitled to.

An Aberdeen employment tribunal had ruled staff were entitled to paid holiday under the Working Time Regulations 1998 proportionate to the time spent working offshore. It was also decided that time onshore did not count as holiday under the legislation because of work patterns and employment terms in the industry. This meant it could not be counted as paid annual leave and effectively meant the offshore working year would be reduced to 24 weeks.

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Industry body Oil & Gas UK appealed against the judgment because of the increased costs it would entail.

Commenting on the appeal case, Adam Smith, professional support lawyer from Travers Smith, said: “Where staff work two weeks on an offshore facility and then two weeks off, the employment appeal tribunal is essentially saying that those two weeks off were not really working time even though, during bits of time they spent off the facility onshore, they would go along to training courses or to medical appointments.

“Those small bits of time will be considered as working time because staff were doing something they had to do under their employment contract. But, generally, after that, they were free to do their own thing.”

Smith said if employers want to designate when an employee is allowed to take holiday, they must give adequate notice. In this case, it was decided they had given adequate notice because details about taking annual leave were outlined in employment contracts.