19th Oct 2017

Sick leave is no holiday, rules EU court

  • Workers will be happy at the ruling, but bosses say it comes at the wrong time (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that taking time off work due to illness is not a holiday.

European employees off work for extended sick leave must receive all the holiday time they have accumulated in that period, the 27-state bloc's top court has found.

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In a judgement released on Tuesday (20 January), the ECJ settled a long-running battle over whether workers kept or lost their holiday rights while away from the job because they were sick.

"A worker does not lose his right to paid annual leave that he has been unable to exercise because of sickness. He must be compensated for his annual leave not taken," the court ruling reads.

If the employee is let go or quits, holiday pay in lieu of the time off must be paid out instead.

The court based its decision on a clause in the 1993 EU Working Time Directive that states that employees have the "right to a minimum period of paid annual leave."

A worker at the Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund, a German insurance body, and five employees at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs in Britain brought the case before the ECJ.

While workers will be celebrating the decision, bosses were quick to denounce the finding.

David Frost, the director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce said the ruling was illogical coming amidst the current economic crisis.

"I fail to see the logic behind this decision. With UK businesses facing the most serious economic downturn for at least a generation, this ruling will hit firms hard and at the worst possible time," he said.

"Companies will either be left with the burdensome task of reallocating resources while the accrued holiday is being taken, or they will face a large one-off expense, which will undoubtedly damage their cash-flow."

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