New EU Ruling Means Sickness No Longer Halts Annual Leave

By Sam Thomas | 19th September 2016 | 14 min read

The European Court of Justice rules that if sickness prevents a worker from taking annual leave it can be carried forward into the next holiday year.

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The high profile Polish case of Sobczyszyn v Szkoła Podstawowa w Rzeplinie relates to a period of sickness Ms. Sobczyszyn had to follow a course of treatment prescribed by her doctor. After her return to work, Ms. Sobczyszyn claimed her entitlement to annual leave that she had built-up during 2011, but was unable to take because of sickness absence. Subsequently, her employer refused to allow her that holiday entitlement.

The case was referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) by the Polish National Court in order for a definitive ruling to be made on whether the Working Time Directive means annual leave, which is halted by sickness, can indeed be carried forward.

Ultimately, the ruling was found in favour of Ms. Sobczyszyn.

The ECJ stated that the purpose of annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy leisurely activities, something that is not able to be done during a period of sickness.

The decision reinforces the position that, if an employee is unable to take annual leave entitlement because of sickness, he or she can carry forward annual leave into the next holiday year.

Repercussions for UK Law

This decision further strengthens the argument that the current wording of reg.13(9) of the Working Time Regulations 1998 is incompatible with previous interpretations of the Working Time Directive.

Following the vote for Brexit, many businesses are questioning the need to follow EU law at present. Until the conclusion of the Article 50 two-year negotiation timeline, UK companies are still as bound by EU law as we were six months ago.

This follows the recent tribunal rulings surrounding holiday pay, with ACAS recommending UK companies pay their employees ‘fairly’, despite the Brexit vote. The same guidelines apply in this case, and UK businesses should still follow legislation and rulings coming from Brussels.

What’s Next?

Businesses need to manage sickness and holidays efficiently and to do this, IRIS HR comes equipped with a comprehensive absence management feature. Combined with the powerful reporting suite, you can quickly and easily stay on top of sickness and holidays with just a few clicks.

To help you understand the benefits that self-service HR software can have on your business, we’ve created the helpful IRIS HR Stater Kit, a free download that contains a wide range of helpful content. Included in the Starter Kit are free guides, videos, a pre-recorded webinar joint-hosted by Marie Walsh, Director and Employment Lawyer at Consilia Legal, and much more.

The IRIS HR Starter Kit is free to download and available now. Click on the blue buttons at the top and bottom of this blog to get started.

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