Home > Employment Issues > Can Illness on Holiday Be Claimed as Sick Days?

Can Illness on Holiday Be Claimed as Sick Days?

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 30 Oct 2019 | comments*Discuss
Holidy Entitlement Illness Sick Leave

You may be surprised to know that the answer to the question, "Can illness on holiday be claimed as sick leave" is actually "Yes". Whether or not you think this is a good idea probably depends on your role – a company boss is likely to be horrified, whereas an employee is possibly already on their way to the travel agents.

Cost to British Business

It may seem ludicrous to the realistic, hard-working employees among us that illness on holiday can be taken as sickness rather than holiday entitlement. The CBI (Confederation of British Industry), the UK’s leading business lobby organisation, would agree, especially as long-term illness already costs UK businesses over £5.3 billion each year.

However, a recent re-interpretation of the EU Working Time Directive has decided that holiday entitlement can be ‘relocated’, thanks to a new ruling. It states that the employee can claim statutory sick leave if their holiday is ‘spoilt by illness’, but phoning in sick as per the normal sickness procedure in their place of work if they happen to become ill on holiday, rather than it simply being bad luck.

The previous approach was more of a ‘common sense and fairness’ attitude, where perhaps if an employee was sick on a day of their holiday it was still taken as holiday, but a long-term illness may allow for something to be arranged between HR and the employee.

Vast Potential for Abuse of the System

The new ruling is centred round the employee’s circumstances of the ‘inability to take leave through no fault of their own’. Of course, this leaves the door open for potential abuse from unmotivated or careless employees wishing to boost their holiday entitlement and it may be that a few bad apples spoil it for the rest of us.

A widely-reported case that has also lead up to this new development is the so-called Stringer case, where an HMRC employee became ill prior to a month-long holiday and it was decided that the individual was able to postpone their holiday rather than ‘use it up’ whilst ill. There have also been cases where the employees right to accrue holiday entitlement has been maintained whilst on long-term sick leave.

The Letter and the Spirit of the Law

It is worth noting that the letter of the law is often not the spirit of the law. Just because we are perhaps ‘legally entitled’ to something does not mean that it is right to claim it, but, indeed, just because an employer can ‘get away’ with something does not mean that they should.

As with so many aspects of working rights, the law is there to give us all a framework within which to work and we all, employees and employers, have a responsibility to be fair. As long as employees do not call in sick on holiday just because they’ve overdone the sangria, then employers will be able to offer a fair deal to those that really deserve to be given a portion of their holiday as sick leave.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
I have breast cancer.I have been off work 2 mths so far, with ongoing surgery and sickness necessary. I have asked my employer for our sickness policy showing what I'm entitled to, only to be told we don't have one as every case is different. Is an employer supposed to have a sickness policy
Peggy - 30-Oct-19 @ 3:16 PM
I was assaulted at work by another college which resulted in me being signed off can my employer mark me down as sick and use this occasion to discipline me?
Jlp - 25-Jun-19 @ 7:33 PM
I had an accident at work and two weeks later had a follow up appointment with the hospital, can my employer mark me down as sick
Jlp - 25-Jun-19 @ 7:25 PM
Is a scheduled hospital appointment automatically deemed as "sickness"?
Marg - 22-Mar-19 @ 6:03 AM
I had an RTA which resulted in 6 weeks off work. I should not be back at work as my MRI and independant medical assessment have not been completed. However, I do not wish to lose my job. I am entitled to no company pay as I have only worked for them for 11 months and I am living on statutory sick pay and my mother is paying my bills. My company have refused time off for my medical assessemnt and told me it must be booked to suit them. This will result in a major delay in my compensation. Is there anything I can do and what are my rights?
muffin - 28-Nov-16 @ 6:05 PM
tr - Your Question:
I work 42.5 hours a week and have hospital appointments coming up am I expected to make the time up ?? will be difficult the amount of hours I work.

Our Response:
You would need to negotiate this matter directly with your employer. You may also wish to have a read of your contract to see what it says about taking such time off.
WorkingRights - 6-Nov-15 @ 12:35 PM
I work 42.5 hours a week and have hospital appointments coming up am I expected to make the time up ?? will be difficult the amount of hours I work.
tr - 5-Nov-15 @ 2:40 PM
@Twigs - An employer is perfectly within their rights to take the time for attending medical appointments. Employers are not required by law to pay employers or allow workers to attend medical appointments in work time. However, they usually are willing to negotiate the time out of an employer's holiday allowance - it seems a bit mercenary to have you take it unpaid. Firstly, I would look in the terms and conditions of your contract and see what the company policy is. If there is a discrepancy with what your employer is saying and what is noted in your contract, then if you work for a large company, I would raise the incident with your HR department. You could also give ACAS a call should you need any further advice.
WorkingRights - 19-Jun-15 @ 12:07 PM
I have a hospital appointment but my employer is refusing to let me take this out of my holiday entitlement. I asked for this time off 2 weeks prior to the appointment date. Is it correct that I am being forced to take this time off for an eye injury as an unpaid day? Many thanks
Twigs - 17-Jun-15 @ 10:19 AM
@jude3000 - According to ACAS, 'an employer can proceed with a disciplinary procedure (including where this may result in dismissal) even where an employee is signed off sick by a doctor. However, the employer needs to ensure that they act fairly and reasonably in the circumstances, and that they follow a fair disciplinary procedure.' You can access the ACAS website and/or use its free helpline should you need any further advice via the link here. I hope this helps.
WorkingRights - 26-May-15 @ 1:57 PM
my employer recently stated my sickness levels were high following recent illness (14 days during last 12 months). This week I badly broke my wrist and face a long lay off after surgery. I now have a letter from my employer requesting meeting to discuss my sickness levels and my future employment. Where do I stand and could I be facing dismissal?
jude3000 - 23-May-15 @ 8:30 PM
@Smiffy, this should really be classed as compassionate leave and should be down to your employer to decide if they want to grant it to you. However, because of the circumstances your employer should be willing to compromise. You shouldn't really be forced to take it as sick leave as you are not sick it is your dependant who is.
Molly - 18-Sep-14 @ 10:13 AM
My employer has informed me that I can only have ten days out sick or for appointments and after the ten days I will not be paid. My child is having regular appointments at the hospital and has been for the last three years and is soon to have an operation which will mean I will definitely go over the ten days. Can my employer do this?
Smiffy - 17-Sep-14 @ 2:20 PM
I have a planned operation in a few weeks and I would like to take two weeks holiday when I have it done as I will be off along time and only have 18 days paid sick left. I have been told I can't book the two weeks off and I have to go on sick straight away. Where do I stand with this ?
Tb - 1-Jun-13 @ 1:54 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word: