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The UK’s top court has rejected a case that argued the government’s paid holiday policy was unfair to the UK’s biggest tech companies.
The case, brought by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), was brought by former Google executive Mark Hurd, who alleged that Google had paid him a £50,000 annual salary to lead a team that produced its own smartphone software.
Google said the case was “without merit” and it would not comment on it.
The BRC has argued that the UK has one of the world’s highest rates of productivity growth.
But the court ruled in favour of Google, saying that “the number of days a company can earn a salary is based on how many days it works per year, not how many weeks of the year it works”.
It also said the BRC had not proved that it had not been paid for its work and “there is no evidence that any employee of Google had ever been disciplined”.
“This court does not accept that a salary of £50K is a reasonable, reasonable wage for a UK employee, which is the salary paid to employees of other companies in the European Union,” the ruling said.
The ruling comes as the UK prepares to take part in a major global conference on artificial intelligence (AI) called “AI in the 21st Century”.
On Thursday, Google will be in the centre of the conference with a keynote address by Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos.
Amazon has said it would be “unfair to pay employees for their work” and has said the technology will be a “game changer” for the economy.
In a blog post on Thursday, BRC said it had “reached a landmark” in its fight for pay equality in the UK.
“It’s no surprise that we’re one of only four countries in the world that has no paid holidays for its employees, but it’s no less shocking that this landmark case was taken forward by the UK courts,” the BCC said.
“We’re thrilled that the courts will now allow us to argue this case in a way that makes sense and ensures we get the fair pay we deserve.”
It added that “our decision to take this case will not only help drive down the cost of living in Britain, it will help drive up productivity in our businesses”.
Google is also expected to host a summit on AI in the coming months, which it hopes will help bring the issue of paid leave to the forefront of discussions.
Last week, a UK judge ruled that Google must pay more than £5 million in back wages to more than 800 employees who lost out on overtime pay.
The judge ruled the pay gap was not due to factors beyond Google’s control.
But in a separate ruling on Friday, the High Court dismissed Google’s claim that the £50k salary was “excessive”.
The B&rk case is being brought by Mark Huddl, who claims he was forced to take a job as an “artificial intelligence specialist” after Google was forced into a “bargaining chip” contract with a rival software company.
Mr Hurd has alleged that he was offered a £30,000 salary for the role and “paid” £25,000 less than the equivalent position in a similar position at Google’s rival.
The £50.000 salary at Google was the minimum he was being offered, and Google claimed he was not entitled to overtime.
In addition to the compensation, the case is also seeking an order to recover a salary he was paid for a year as an associate in the B&rk team.
The court ruled that the BCR’s case was not based on any of the factors that would have justified a higher wage, and therefore the case could not proceed.
Google’s position has not been immediately clear, but a spokeswoman for the company said: “We’re confident that this ruling will set a very positive precedent for the future and will encourage other companies to follow suit.”
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