ECJ ruling: Staff on annual leave entitled to extra time off if they become ill

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that employees who become ill while on annual leave have the right to reclaim additional paid leave of the same duration at a later date, regardless of when their ill-health commenced.

The ruling was prompted by a Spanish trade union case against a group of department stores.

The ECJ’s ruling stated: “The purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure. The purpose of entitlement to sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him or her to be unfit for work.

“The point at which the temporary incapacity arose is irrelevant. Consequently, a worker is entitled to take paid annual leave which coincides with a period of sick leave at a later point in time, irrespective of the point at which the incapacity for work arose.”

The government has said that the ruling, which is binding across all European Union (EU) members, will apply from October 2012.

Karen Thomson, associate director of policy, research and strategic visibility at the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP), said: “The CIPP is disappointed to see that once again the EU feels it necessary to legislate for sickness during holidays. Whether an employer allows an employee to reclaim holiday if sick during their leave is a matter to be dealt with between the employer and the employee; not the EU or the UK government.

“The CIPP would support the statement that this will be a further financial burden for UK businesses at a time when they can least afford it. For payroll and HR departments, this will be more administration as employers will require some form of evidence that the employee was sick and then records would need to be amended accordingly.”

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