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ECJ rules staff that get sick on annual leave are entitled to corresponding paid leave when they recover

The European Court of Justice has ruled that workers who fall sick during their annual leave are entitled to take corresponding paid leave at a later date, irrespective of when the period of ill health commenced.

Vanessa Latham, employment partner at Berrymans Lace Mawer, said: "The Court drew a distinction between paid annual leave, and sick leave. The purpose of the former, said the Court, was to enable the employee to enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure, whereas the purpose of the latter was to enable the employee to recover from an illness that has caused them to be unfit for work."

"The ECJ pointed out that entitlement to paid annual leave was a particularly important principle of EU social law, a principle expressly enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Some commentators have suggested the UK government should delay implementing the ruling, but such delay may well be futile, as UK courts are likely to interpret UK law in accordance with the ruling in any case."

"In practice, the ruling is not likely to result in a significant increase in absences for two reasons: First, employees who are seriously ill will still need to obtain sick notes from doctors where they are ill for long periods of time; second, the decision will not make it any easier for employees to call in sick, as employees could do so just as easily regardless of having booked annual leave."