Can Employees Take Holidays While on Sick Leave? In short, the answer is yes!

Employees can use their paid holiday while off sick in certain circumstances. For example, if they:

  • are not physically able to work but physically able to take a holiday.
  • have a mental health condition that might be helped by a holiday.
  • are off sick long-term and a holiday might help with their recovery.

In such circumstances, the employee should discuss this with their manager and obtain the necessary authorisation.

If the request is approved, sick leave will be paused while the employee takes the agreed holiday, and payment during this period will be in line with the employee’s usual payment entitlement during holidays. After the period of holiday, the employee can return to work, or sick leave will resume if the employee is still not well enough to return to work.

Employees on long term sickness absence who are unable to use their holiday entitlement within the holiday year will be able to carry some of their entitlement over into the following holiday year.

Taking holiday while on sick leave

The amount of holiday eligible to be carried over will very much depend on the terms detailed within the employees’ contract of employment and the organisation's sickness policy.

From a statutory perspective, a maximum of 4 weeks' annual leave can be carried over and must be taken within an 18-month period from the date that it is carried over. The reason for this is that UK law legislates for 4 weeks' annual leave; the additional 1.6 weeks (that makes up the statutory minimum 5.6 weeks holiday entitlement that organisations must offer) is derived from EU law. Any enhancement on top is a benefit offered by the organisation, and therefore it is crucial to review the contract of employment and policies to determine the organisation's stance on this.

In circumstances in which the employee is on long-term sickness absence, has exhausted their sick pay, and the annual leave year is nearing an end, the organisation may consider allowing the employee to take holiday during this period given the financial benefit to the employee. This is generally at the absolute discretion of the organisation. Of course, it is not possible to take sick leave and holiday at the same time, and so, as detailed in the example above, sick leave would be paused in this situation and resumed again after the holiday.

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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.