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The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that workers who become ill during their holidays have the right to take additional paid leave at a later date.
The decision, prompted by a Spanish trade union case brought against a department store chain, is legally binding throughout the EU.
Employers who violate the directive can have infringement cases brought against them by the European Commission or state governments
The ECJ noted that: ‘The purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure. The purpose of entitlement to sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused them to be unfit for work.’
The judgment goes even further than the court’s earlier rulings on the issue. Previously, the ECJ had ruled that employees who were sick before their holiday started could take their leave at another time.
The judgment relates to the EU’s Working Time Directive which the UK has an opt-out on. But only on the areas relating to working over 48 hours a week - there is no sick pay and holiday exemption.
The UK government has said it will apply the rulings from October 2012.
But some UK businesses - such as the BBC - are already ahead of the recent ruling and allow staff to reclaim holiday time if they fall ill.
A spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses said: ‘We are encouraging the government to avoid implementing the ECJ ruling on annual leave and sick leave for as long as possible.’
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