Brazel case reaches The Supreme Court Jump to main content

Brazel case reaches The Supreme Court

Today (Tuesday) the UK’s highest court, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Harpur Trust v Brazel - a landmark case on holiday pay. The case will impact not only on the holiday pay of music teachers, but also on holiday pay rights for thousands of others who work term-time only, such as school catering staff and playground assistants.

ISM member Lesley Brazel is employed as a part-time music teacher in an independent school operated by The Harpur Trust. Like many other music teachers, her hours fluctuate depending on how many pupils require lessons, and she is only paid for hours worked.

An ISM survey of music teachers showed that 75% of respondents were undertaking unpaid duties outside of term time.

Mrs Brazel’s employer worked out her holiday pay entitlement based only on her term-time teaching hours. They did this on the basis that Mrs Brazel is not contracted to teach music lessons to pupils in school holidays.

The ISM has always maintained that there is no legal basis for reducing our members’ annual holiday entitlement in this way. Instead, this should be calculated in the same way as for any other worker - by taking a week’s pay and multiplying it by 5.6.

Mrs Brazel first approached the ISM for support with this issue eight years ago (in 2013), when the ISM’s legal team helped her bring an internal grievance. When that grievance was dismissed, an employment tribunal claim followed, and in 2019, the case reached the Court of Appeal where the judges agreed with the ISM’s interpretation of the law.

The case has now reached the Supreme Court, where a final decision will be made. A positive verdict will have ramifications for thousands of employees working in schools and across the economy.

ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said, ‘We’re privileged to have supported Mrs Brazel throughout her case. The ISM prides itself on doing its upmost to support our members and we hope that the Supreme Court will see the merits of Mrs Brazel’s case.

Their judgment could have an enormous impact on the holiday pay of music teachers and hundreds of thousands of others who work part-time or irregular hours.

The crux of this case is about fairness. Music teachers are routinely expected to carry out many hours of extra unpaid work - during term-time and in the holidays - going way beyond the hours that are spent delivering each music lesson. They should have the same minimum entitlement of 5.6 weeks’ annual paid holiday as everybody else.’