Taking sickness during holidays What are the rights of the employee and your obligations as an employer?

“We’re all going on a summer holiday, no more work for a week or two.” But what if the employee falls ill during this holiday? What are the rights of the employee and your obligations as an employer?

This kind of situation, although not common, can and does crop up from time to time, and so we wanted to remind you of the rights of your employees and your obligations as an employer.

Employees have the right to take sickness during a holiday when they are unwell and therefore unable to get the rest that holidays are designed to give them in line with the Working Time Regulations.

We advise you to review your holiday policy and sickness policy to ensure that you have the process for dealing with this covered off, as this could crop up at any point but may be more likely during the summer when most employees tend to say goodbye to us for a week or two.

In such circumstances, the normal sickness notification procedures would apply even if the employee is out of the country on holiday. The employee can reallocate their whole holiday or a period of their holiday as sickness, depending on when they fall ill, and then take their holiday at another time in the holiday year.

In addition to ensuring the employee follows the normal sickness notification procedure, we advise you to also ask the employee to put this request in writing to you. The employee cannot make this request retrospectively.

Sickness while taking annual leave

When reviewing this request, you must:

  • Consider how many days of holiday the employee has already taken within the leave year. If they have taken more than 4 weeks, you are not obliged to agree to this request. 4 weeks' holiday is the statutory minimum set out in UK legislation, the other 1.6 weeks is set out in EU legislation, and anything over and above that is the offering from your organization and an enhancement on legislation.
  • Satisfy yourself that the illness was genuine and serious enough to warrant being unable to get the rest that the employee would usually obtain during a holiday. For example, if an employee had a common cold, it is likely that they would still be able to get the necessary rest during their holiday. Whereas, if the employee had flu and were bed-bound, they would not be in a position to get the necessary rest that they would usually obtain during their holiday.
  • Make it clear to the employees that any reconvened holiday requested and approved can only be taken on days as authorized by their manager.

The employer can and should request that the employee provides a doctor’s medical certificate, regardless of the length of sickness in this situation.

Should you require any support in creating or reviewing sickness and holiday policies, please get in touch.

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Author: Anna Roberts

Anna Roberts

Anna is a HR Consultant at StaffLeave, heading up our HR Services division, and likes to contribute ways to help you get the most of your holiday management, improve well-being and work-life balance.