Wed 12 February, 2020
If you are unfortunate enough to be off work sick for a period of time worrying about how it will affect your holiday entitlement is probably the least of your worries.
Missing work through illness can have a number of repercussions. It can result in a reduction in pay, depending on an employer’s sick pay scheme, or formal action being taken if attendance or capability become a concern.
One matter unlikely to be at the forefront of your mind at such a time, is the impact that being off can have on the number of holidays you can or cannot take.
Almost all workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday a year, known as statutory leave entitlement or annual leave (1). This includes agency workers, workers with irregular hours and workers on zero-hours contracts. An employer can include bank holidays as part of statutory annual leave
Most workers who work a five-day week must receive at least 28 days paid annual leave a year. This is the equivalent of 5.6 weeks of holiday.
Your annual leave allowance should be made clear and be in writing, specifying what you are entitled to and if it includes public holidays. A failure to make it clear could result in claims for a breach of contract and/or holiday pay.
Figures published last year by the TUC revealed that one in 14 UK workers were not getting their legal holiday entitlement (2).
The report said that the number of people making unpaid holiday claims had more than doubled since tribunal fees were abolished in 2017 (3).
When you are on sick leave you normally build up holiday leave in the same way as any other employee.
There is no hard and fast rule about how this will be done because different employers will have different rules.
Some employers will have an accrual system as part of their annual leave process (4). This means holiday entitlement that is built up during the first year of employment and developed during an employee’s service with an organisation.
The way it works is that for every month you work, you become entitled to one twelfth of your annual entitlement. So, after six months, you would be entitled to a half of your annual entitlement.
Accrual normally continues during legal absences such as sickness absence and maternity leave (5).
It is always worth checking your employment contract or employer’s policy to better understand how holiday entitlement and sick leave work.
It is an issue that will usually only arise if you are off on long-term sick leave, which generally is an illness lasting four weeks or more.
A long-term sick employee is still entitled to annual leave and can usually build up four weeks' statutory paid holiday time, regardless of the length of time that they are actually off for.
It may be the case that statutory holiday entitlement cannot be used because of illness. In such circumstances it can often be carried over into the next leave year. Employers should set out in writing the holiday leave year period (for example, 1 January to 31 December).
Employees on long-term sick leave can carry over four weeks’ unused holiday, unless the employer allows more to be carried over. This holiday must be used within 18 months from the date it is carried over.
If an employee is taken ill prior to taking annual leave they can request they can ask to take their paid holiday for the time they are off work sick. They may make such a request if they do not qualify for sick pay, for example. Any rules relating to sick leave will still apply.
(1) Holiday Entitlement - [INTERNET] www.gov.uk [CITED 12.02.2020] https://www.gov.uk/holiday-entitlement-rights
(2) Figures on employees not getting their holiday entitlement - [INTERNET] www.tuc.org.uk [CITED 12.02.2020] https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/2-million-workers-not-getting-legal-holiday-entitlement-warns-tuc
(3) Unpaid Holiday- [INTERNET] www.bbc.co.uk [CITED 12.02.2020] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40727400
(4) Accrual System - [INTERNET] www.gov.uk [CITED 12.02.2020] https://www.gov.uk/holiday-entitlement-rights/calculate-leave-entitlement
(5) Accrual System- [INTERNET] www.employmentlaws.co.uk [CITED 12.02.2020] https://www.employmentlaws.co.uk/guide/absence_from_work.html