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Sickness and holiday leave: What happens when they coincide?

Acas research has found that there's particular confusion in the workplace about how different kinds of leave relate to each other when they seem to be happening at the same time. For example, what happens with planned holiday leave if you fall sick and can't go - or indeed, what happens to your holiday leave when you're off sick for a long period?

Misunderstandings about this may have been exacerbated by apparent contradictions between European, domestic and case law - which have made this a complex area, so it may well be worth getting legal advice for some issues. But what's the current thinking on the most common questions?

You've booked a holiday months in advance and just before you're due to travel, you fall ill. What happens to your holiday leave? When prearranged statutory holiday coincides with sick leave, employees should let their employer know as soon as reasonably practical. Employees are allowed to take their holiday at another time. If they remain sick until the end of that holiday-leave year, they can reschedule their holiday in the following year. If an employee turns holiday leave to sick leave, they should expect to receive sick pay only, because they are unfit to do the job during that period.

What about the example of an employee on sick leave who wants to take a holiday during that time? Can they do so? The Working Time Regulations (WTR) allow employees to do this. Furthermore, employees continue to build up their holiday entitlements while they are off sick, but don't have to take their holiday during that time. They can carry it over to the next year if they haven't been able to take holiday while sick.

Acas has comprehensive information on leave and holidays in the Advice leaflet - Holidays and holiday pay, and runs Employing People – A Practical Introduction training courses, covering the fundamentals of employment, including contracts, pay and holidays.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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