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State substitution for the trade union good: the case of paid holiday entitlements

John Forth (Cass Business School, City University of London, London, UK)
Alex Bryson (Department of Social Science, University College London, London, UK)

Journal of Participation and Employee Ownership

ISSN: 2514-7641

Article publication date: 17 June 2019

Issue publication date: 20 June 2019




The literature on the union wage premium is among the most extensive in labour economics but unions’ effects on other aspects of the wage-effort bargain have received much less attention. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the literature through a study of the union premium in paid holiday entitlements.


The authors examine the size of the union premium on paid holidays over time, with a particular focus on how the premium was affected by the introduction of a statutory right to paid holidays. The data come from nationally representative surveys of employees and workplaces.


The authors find that the union premium on paid holidays is substantially larger than the union premium on wages. However, the premium fell with the introduction of a statutory minimum entitlement to paid leave.


This is the first study to examine explicitly the interaction between union representation and the law in this setting. The findings indicate the difficulties that unions have faced in protecting the most vulnerable employees in the UK labour market. The authors argue that the supplanting of voluntary joint regulation with statutory regulation is symptomatic of a wider decrease in the regulatory role of unions in the UK.



The authors gratefully acknowledge funding from the Trade Union Congress. The report presents research based on data from the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) and the 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS). The authors acknowledge the Social Survey Division of the Office for National Statistics and the Central Survey Unit of the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency as the originators of the QLFS. The authors acknowledge the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Acas, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, the ESRC and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research as the sponsors of the WERS, and the National Centre for Social Research as the data collectors. The QLFS and WERS data were supplied by the UK Data Archive.


Forth, J. and Bryson, A. (2019), "State substitution for the trade union good: the case of paid holiday entitlements", Journal of Participation and Employee Ownership, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 5-23.



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