Staff holiday advice follows tribunal ruling

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Employers are being advised to make sure they are aware of a recent ruling which affects how much holiday can be carried over by staff who have been on long term sick leave.

The advice from employment law specialists at law firm Blake Morgan follows a recent Employment Appeal Tribunal decision around how long holiday pay can be carried over from one year to the next if an employee has been off sick.

Before the tribunal decision, there was uncertainty on the issue because there is no national legislation to impose a limit, and views were divided over whether employers could impose one in employee contracts.

A tribunal has now ruled that staff who accrue holiday while they are on sick leave are entitled to carry it over – but only for a maximum of 18 months.

Sarah Peacock, a partner in the employment team at Blake Morgan, said: “European case law has long suggested that holiday cannot be carried over indefinitely, but there was no clear guidance for employers in the UK.

“Many employers will be delighted with this decision which effectively puts a limit on the amount of holiday that can be carried over by employees on long term sick leave.

“It essentially confirms a principle of “use it or lose it” – where a worker is unable or unwilling to take holiday due to sickness absence, the time it can be carried over for is limited to 18 months after the end of the leave year in which the holiday accrued.

“This decision will make a significant difference for employers if individuals have been off sick for a long time and, at the end of their employment, are claiming backdated holiday pay.”

The ruling, which clarifies the Working Time Regulations 1998, came in the case of a Mr J Plumb, who was employed as a printer by Hertfordshire-based Duncan Print Group and had suffered an accident at work which resulted in long-term sickness absence.