Ill whilst on holiday? No problem, now you can take extra time off


Many employees ensure to plan their holidays and often treat themselves, for instance by going abroad or visiting family and friends. However, it is not uncommon for people to fall ill whilst on holiday, perhaps because their children come home with some infection that they contracted from their playmates or for some other reason. If the illness lasts for days it can have a devastating impact on the affected person's holiday.

In the majority of instances employers will not have awarded their staff equivalent sick days simply because they fell ill whilst in holiday, but this might soon change. Yesterday, the European Court of Justice ruled that employees should be entitled to sick leave if their annual leave was ruined by illness.

The Court reasoned that paid annual leave and paid sick leave are two different things: "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 them to be unfit for work."

How will this impact employees and companies?

For employees, this legal development stresses that the law is concerned with their wellbeing and ensuring that they get time off. Many employers will worry that employees will falsely claim that they were ill whilst on holiday, and that companies will be negatively impacted by this financial burden, particularly small ones. However, this is unlikely as employees will probably need to provide some type of proof from a medical professional, such as a note from a GP.

Some interest groups are likely to argue that this measure goes too far in protecting employees. However, with the current Government's focus on making it easier for companies to hire and fire staff, such as making it more difficult for employees to claim for unfair dismissal, the European Court of Justice's judgment is a welcome development back in favour of the protection of workers.

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