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ECJ rules that airline pilots` paid annual leave must include flying supplements

22 September 2011 #Employment

In the case of Williams and others v British Airways plc (Case C-155/10 ECJ), the ECJ has held that airline pilots’ paid annual leave must include supplementary flying payments.  The case was referred to the ECJ by the Supreme Court.

In this case, the pilots’ holiday pay was made up of their basic salary but did not include flying supplements to which they were entitled as part of their normal remuneration. The Supreme Court considered that whilst the relevant European directives (the Working Time Directive and the Aviation Directive) provided for the right to paid annual leave, they did not specify how it was to be calculated.  The Supreme Court referred the case to the ECJ to determine what ‘paid annual leave’ means.

The ECJ held that the pilots should receive their normal remuneration when on annual leave and not just their basic salary.  The ECJ reasoned that the pilots have the right to enjoy, during their period of rest and relaxation, economic conditions which are comparable to those relating to the exercise of his or her employment.

The ECJ highlighted that when pay is made up of several components, employers should examine each component to determine whether it constitutes normal remuneration.  In particular, where the remuneration is linked intrinsically to the performance of the tasks which the worker is required to carry out under his contract of employment and where the remuneration is included in the calculation of the worker’s total remuneration, this must necessarily be taken into account for the purposes of the amount to which the worker is entitled during his annual leave.

Occasional or ancillary costs arising out of the employment such as, in this case, costs connected with the time that pilots have to spend away from base need not be taken into account in the calculation of the payment to be made during annual leave.

We now await the final decision of the Supreme Court to see the impact of this judgment on domestic legislation.  The ECJ judgment can be viewed online at

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