The tricky relationship between sick leave and holidays

When an employee is absent through illness, one thing that can be forgotten is the right to holiday.

Firstly, a worker accrues holiday even whilst absent through illness. This is especially important to remember if a worker is absent for a long time.

A worker is also able to request to take holiday whilst they are absent due to illness. For those on long term sick, they need to use up their holiday entitlement in the relevant leave year.  It is therefore advisable for employers to encourage their workers to take their holiday and remind them that if they do not use it, they may lose it towards the end of the leave year.  If workers are prevented from taking their holiday because of sickness, they must be allowed to take it when they return to work, even if it needs to be carried over to the next leave year.

If a worker falls ill before a pre-arranged holiday or becomes sick during the holiday, it is advisable to allow them to rearrange their holiday. So although workers may be allowed to take holiday during sick leave, if they do not wish to do so the holiday must then be granted at a different time. Again, this is the case even if it means carrying it over to the next leave year.

Holiday entitlement and holiday pay can be tricky issues, hence the amount of case law on this issue. Liabilities can be large for employers if left unchecked. Employers should be proactive about this issue and seek advice if they are unsure about where they stand.

N.B.  Please note that the above information is a guide only and does not constitute legal advice. We recommend seeking specialist legal advice on your own particular circumstances.