Byline: Michael Lea
EMPLOYEES on long-term sick leave are still entitled to paid holiday, EU judges said yesterday.
Their ruling clears up years of dispute over whether holiday rights are lost during prolonged illness.
Critics said the judgment would impose yet more burdens on hardpressed businesses already struggling in the recession.
It means that staff can take their annual leave built up while at home as soon as they return to work.
In addition, any worker who is sacked or who leaves a firm while off ill must be financially compensated for the holidays not taken.
The European Court of Justice verdict takes effect immediately and cannot be appealed against. In Britain, critics said it was yet another example of the EU undermining UK business.
Employment experts said it would add another layer of costly bureaucracy.
Firms could be forced to carry out comprehensive reviews of their sickness, maternity and holiday policies, and even redraw individual contracts to specify if holiday entitlements which firms offer that exceed the statutory minimum should also continue to accrue during absence.
Long-term absence is defined by the Confederation of British Industry as being off for at least 20 days. It costs business [pounds sterling]5.3billion a year and accounts for half of all working time lost in the public sector, and a third in the private sector.
Although yesterday's judgment means that holiday will now be automatically built up during sickness, the ruling effectively applies only to those off for extended periods who are not able to take their annual entitlement over the year.
The verdict applies only to the 20 days annual leave required by law under the EU working time directive. So someone off sick for two years would be entitled to 40 days holiday, plus public holidays.
But the UK statutory minimum holiday allowance is 24 days and the Law Lords will now decide whether to extend the benefit accordingly. …