Sickness & Absence

Sick whilst on annual leave?

One of my employees has just returned from a two week holiday and says that she was ill for one of her weeks’ holiday. She wants to re-take the week at a later date. Can she do this?

This really depends on what it says in her employment contract or staff handbook. Is there a sickness absence policy that states what someone must do in the event of sickness e.g. do they have to provide a sick note? Do they have to ring work on their first day of sickness? If they simply return from holiday and make such a claim without following your normal sickness policy (without a good excuse) then in most cases it would be reasonable not to allow them to re-take the holiday.

This highlights how important it is to have a comprehensive sickness policy applicable to all your employees. For example, there is no reason why you should not require employees to provide a sick note at their own expense covering each day of pre-booked holiday in respect of which they want to re-take holiday at a later date.

Aren’t these rules open to abuse?

Yes, if you do not have a sickness policy. However, it also depends on whether you simply pay the minimum Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or whether you pay full pay during sickness absences. If you pay SSP only then employees will have to decide whether they want to ring in sick whilst on holiday and accept that they will not get paid (or at the most SSP) or take it as holiday pay and receive normal pay. Don’t forget, under the SSP scheme, the first 3 days are classed as waiting days and are not eligible for pay of any kind. This would put a lot of people off claiming them as sick days. However, if you pay full pay during sickness absences, your employees will have a different choice. In most cases, they will decide to call in and convert their holiday to sick leave, therefore protecting their holiday entitlement.

The most important thing here is clarity. A properly drafted sickness policy need not be expensive but would save a lot of hassle at a later date. If you would like an experienced employment lawyer to review your policies, please contact us on 01904 528200

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