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Issue Date:- 24 December 2007

Government changes paid holidays

MILLIONS of workers will have reason for an extra toast this Christmas, with the Government increasing paid holidays so that for the first time, staff have access to more leave days to cover the Christmas period. But this could be short lived cheer...

Earlier this year, the Government increased the annual leave entitlement for full-time workers from 20 to 24 days, in order to make paid leave for bank and public holidays additional to the annual holiday entitlement.

Around six million workers, or 22% of the workforce, are set to benefit from these changes.

These changes are aimed to ensure all people get 20 days paid holidays a year on top of time off for bank holidays.

Employment Relations Minister, Pat McFadden, said:- "These changes will help bring some extra Christmas cheer to millions of people who have worked hard all year and deserve a break to relax and spend time with their families and friends.

Most full time workers already receive 20 days or more paid leave, not counting bank holidays, and many part-timers receive an equivalent entitlement. Those who do not are likely to be in lower paid occupations. These changes will help ensure a fair deal on leave for all full time staff."

The entitlement will increase to 28 days from April 2009. The Government has used a staged system to introduce the changes, in order to ensure that business is not unnecessarily burdened.

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:- "The Government is right to tackle the counting of Bank Holidays as annual leave. It is counter productive of businesses to deprive their workers of holidays that others who are employed get as a right."

Peter Schofield, director of legal & employment affairs at the Engineering Employers Federation, said:- "Government should be applauded for recognising that there is no need to add to the burden on good employers who are already meeting the aim of the regulations. This is a perfect example of better regulation rewarding good practice with a lighter regulatory regime."

CBI deputy director general John Cridland said:- "The Government is right to introduce the extension of statutory annual leave gradually over the next two years, a 'big bang' approach would have been more painful for employers."

New signs will help drivers who break down

NEW road signs to let drivers know where they are if they break down or want to report a problem on the motorway have been installed by the Highways Agency in parts of the region.

Information on the new roadside driver location signs will help the Highways Agency Traffic Officer Service and emergency services to pinpoint where people are when they call their control rooms. The signs tell road users which motorway they are driving on, the direction they are travelling in and exactly where they are on the motorway.

The new signs have been installed as part of a six month programme which was completed earlier this month and feature along the M62 and M56 in Cheshire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester.

A similar programme has been completed in other parts of the country but the North West was the first to get a small number of the signs on the M6 in a 2005 pilot scheme.

The new signs feature on the M56 (between the A5103 and Junction 16) and the M62 (between Junction 6 and Junction 12 and Junction 18 and Junction 22). They display:-

- The number of the motorway.

- A letter A or B telling the Highways Agency or the emergency services which direction the driver is travelling in.

- A figure underneath the letter representing the distance in kilometres from the start of the motorway.

The signs have been positioned prominently on the motorway verge near the hard shoulder and will help road users by showing them their exact position if they need to telephone emergency services, recovery or the Highways Agency's Regional Control Centre. They complement special but much smaller marker posts which appear every 100 yards along the hard shoulder and also give location information.

Sujad Hussain, Route Performance Manager for the M62 and M56, said:- "With many people using mobile phones to call for assistance these days, rather than the motorway emergency phones, it can be difficult to find a caller's exact location. If road users can tell us what is on the sign nearest to them on the motorway, we can work out where they are on the M62 or M56 if they breakdown or need to report an incident.

The new signs will mean the emergency services and Highways Agency Traffic Officers can respond to incidents more quickly and reduce the risk of secondary incidents, congestion and delay to other road users."

And John Hope, Acting Network Operations Manager in charge of the North West Traffic Officer Service, said:- "We welcome the location signs. We know from experience that some people don't always know which motorway they are on let alone which junctions they are near. Anything which helps Traffic Officers to more quickly locate someone in trouble will be useful in helping us to combat congestion."

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