EU court: Workers sick on leave can get extra time off

Sick girl in bed - file pic Workers' rights are protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

Related Stories

Workers who fall sick during their annual leave are entitled to take corresponding paid leave at a later date, the EU's top court has ruled.

The European Court of Justice ruling is legally binding throughout the EU.

Thursday's ruling was prompted by a Spanish trade union case against a group of department stores.

"The right to paid annual leave cannot be interpreted restrictively," the court says. The UK does not have an opt-out in this area of EU labour law.

The court in Luxembourg said the EU Working Time Directive grants workers a right to at least four weeks' paid annual leave "even where such leave coincides with periods of sick leave".

The ECJ says "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."

According to an earlier ECJ ruling, workers who fall sick before a period of annual leave can also reschedule that leave period so that it does not clash with their sick leave.

The UK's opt-out from the Working Time Directive only applies to the directive's clause setting a 48-hour limit on the working week.

The UK government says "no-one can opt out of any other part of the directive".

The UK and at least 14 other countries use the opt-out, which enables workers voluntarily to work more than 48 hours a week.

Carrying leave over

An EU source told the BBC that the ECJ ruling has full, immediate effect EU-wide, regardless of the type or size of employer.

Workers who believe their employer has infringed their right to paid annual leave can seek justice in their national courts.

Infringement cases against employers who violate the directive can also be brought by the European Commission or national governments.

Commenting on Thursday's ruling the Confederation of British Industry said that "as a result of earlier ECJ judgments, this change has already happened in the UK, bringing along headaches for employers".

Guy Bailey, CBI Head of Employment and Employee Relations, said that "with the rules currently under discussion again in Brussels, the CBI would like to see the judgments reversed, so that the directive is focused on the health and safety of the workforce, as originally intended".

The Working Time Directive has been hotly debated in the EU for years. The European Parliament has tried to get the opt-out removed, challenging the UK position.

The UK's Federation of Small Businesses urged the UK government on Thursday to "avoid implementation of any ECJ ruling on annual leave and sick leave for as long as possible, given the ongoing negotiations by the social partners on the Working Time Directive".

The business group said changing UK law in this area again "would be unhelpful, confusing and add burdens for small businesses, which at this time they can ill afford".

In cases where workers fall sick towards the end of the year, and are unable to take all of their annual leave, they can under EU law carry over their unused leave into the next accounting period.

The ECJ has also ruled that the long-term sick have the right to accumulate at least a year of unused annual leave. But the ECJ says the amount is not open-ended and member states can set an upper limit.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    184 Lord Drainlid

    Britain was always the nation of begrudgers. You may recall that Mr Scrooge begrudged his poor clerk Christmas day off

    Dickens was reflecting the begrudgement of the times. In Victorian Britain, the Tory government tried to do away with Christmas altogether.

    It was only the popularity of Mr Dickens short novel that rescued Christmas as a day off for the workforce

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    So if you have a crap holiday in Spain you just go sick and rebook another week somewhere else. I love these judgements where the default position is one of honesty and not as many will discover another way to abuse the system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    when i was employed in a reading hotel on a five day week one of my days off was always on a monday and i never got paid for a lieu day and nobody supported me so why do others get so much and why was i singled out,sorry but i am a femail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    This has been the position for a while, the EU has just clarified it. How many workers actually dare tho? I wouldn't, + I tend to fall ill q often on holiday, perhaps because u let your defenses down. It makes sense in terms of the law though+is in fact what it set out to do- unfortunate for businesses but no different to if u took sick leave at a different time anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.


    Me....I'm your number 2- in work in a cloud of kleenex. Fine, except a week later we are horribly short staffed as I've infected everyone, and the company then has to get in bank staff at greater cost. I'd rather work, unless I can't, as the work won't go away, but the imact of my coming in ill means more people will be ill later sick pay or four?

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    I can just see the comments now. Don't need to read the thread.

    MailReader - 'Workers should be content with five days leave a year, and be sick on their own time!'

    ConDemsAreTooSoft - 'Typical EU, meddling in our business. BACK OFF BRUSSELS!'

    BanAllLefties - 'In my day we had to pay to go to work! Are you listening Mr Blair?!!'

    Plus ca' change...

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    here we go again.
    not only do we have the worst stay at home people in the EU on benifits are us we now give the rest of the workshy the excuse to say i was ill on my hols sniff sniff and take extra days off. All this at a time we need all hands on deck.
    give most poeople an inch you know the rest.
    its a joke

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    In the early 1980s I was sick for 13 days with food piosoning which was traced to sausage rolls from a local shop. When I returned to work I was interviewed by a member of managment who asked me did I have any under lying problems at home which had made me lose 13 days from work, my first thoughts were how did this idiot get where he is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    #185 SB
    no that is silly - sunday is not a days leave its a non working day! the same as if you are part time and dont work mondays you dont get paid for a bank holiday! that was a rather ill thought out comment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    166. Pete
    Judging by the comments of some on here who claim they are employers they must be pretty bad at selecting and motivating staff and if they cant weigh up whether its best to use people or machines I dont think they will be in business for too long.

    Its finely balanced. Two employees at 20K ea pa verses machinery at 170K one off cost. Choice boils down to which will be most reliable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    This isn't to do with workers rights it is to do with a clarification of Employment Contract Law. If your contract entitles you to x days off work then that is what you are entitled to. Being ill while you are on leave is not your fault so you are still entitled to the leave. This has always been applied by most employers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    "Does that mean if i fall sick on Sunday, I get another day off in lieu of my sunday? a bit ridiculous!!!"
    How on earth did you manage to come to that conclusion? If your working week is Monday to Friday, for example, Saturday and Sunday aren't leave, just non-work days. I do hope you are asking your question with your tongue very firmly in your cheek...

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    This has been law in Denmark for quite a while, and I do not know of anybody who has abused it! It only applies to working days taken as holiday, not weekends unless they are your contracted days to work. Likewise you cannot go on holiday if you have along-term illness ie if you broke your leg and are laid up for six weeks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    @188.Rebecca Riot

    Made me chuckle - turning a HYS on employment law into a statement about marital 'make or break' holidays :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    We Brit's are trying to cut red tape while the silly euro knobs are trying to add more on...referendum time is looming I think. (sorry, a typo on the first one, I had my angry head on !)

    184.Lord Drainlid
    Just now
    we are fast becoming a nation of begrudgers and the laughing stock of Europe.

    bed huggers is more the truth ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    170: The tour operator is not employing you.

    181: I refer you to 178. Employers already have plenty of protection.

    183: Not true. Sweden: stronger workers' rights than here, stronger parents' rights, better childcare provision, higher taxes, more public spending, less inequality, better health, LOWER unemployment rate than here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Crazy - and the majority may lose loose in the end!

    If the cost to employers for paying their staff sick leave increases then won't we just see more employers paying just statutory sick leave instead of full sallary. The difficult economic climate we see today already gives employers some justification to consider this - this EU ruling will tip the scales further.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    as a hard working private sector worker Blah Blah Blah .... Public Sector will burn our money Blah Blah Blah.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    Great idea, should have been in place long ago. We already get a lack of annual leave in the UK, high retirement age and lack of beneficial schemes - you simply can't work people into the ground until they're dead and expect to give nothing in return - if you're lucky enough to beat the £4 p/h foreign workers into a job in the first place!
    If only the NHS could issue a sick note within a week!

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    184.Lord Drainlid
    "we are fast becoming a nation of begrudgers and the laughing stock of Europe"

    becoming? !!!

    After the Jimmy Carr Morally offended at someone paying only what they were legally rwquired too I think "becoming" is a bit past tense. lol


Page 25 of 35


More Europe stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.