EU says workers can claim extra leave if sick on holiday

A new and binding directive from the European Court of Justice says sick days have to be separate from annual leave.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 11 Sep 2015

In a move unlikely to endear it to employers across Europe, the European Court of Justice has today ruled that if workers fall ill whilst they are on annual leave, they will be entitled to claw back extra annual leave in compensation. In other words, if you’re ill whilst you’re on holiday, you get more holiday. For the fakers out there, it’s win, win!

The fact that the court is making a distinction between sick leave and annual leave which is legally binding will force employers to accept sick notes as currency for more time off. The ECJ ruling insists: ‘the point at which temporary incapacity arose is irrelevant.’ In an earlier ruling, it also was decided that if workers fall ill before their annual leave, then they are allowed to suspend their leave so that it does not clash with their sick time.

For any employers (or managers of the odd lazy worker) out there, this is not like the EU’s Working Time Directive, where the UK and 14 other countries opted out of a maximum 48 hours work per week if workers volunteered for more. No, this is a pan-Europe, compulsory policy, and potentially another source of scuffles in the employment tribunal with disgruntled employees if businesses get sniffy about playing ball.

So if you get to the end of your annual leave this summer and it didn’t feel quite enough (and you really want to end up in your boss’s bad books), get to the doc, call yourself sick for three days and get a few more days tacked on the end. Simple.

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