Ill on holiday

Holiday entitlement while ill

There is a degree of confusion when it comes to holiday entitlement and taking ill during this period. The natural reaction is to take the illness as part of your holiday but you do have statutory rights when it comes to sickness and holidays.

You are quite entitled to advise your employer that you have taken ill during your holiday period. However, there are a number of issues to consider with this particular path.

When is sick leave genuine?

The first thing to consider is whether your illness is serious enough to take as sick time. For example:-

  • If you are confined to bed and unable to use your holiday entitlement as you planned, it may make sense to take sick leave
  • It may be that your illness is relatively mild, such as a cold, which does not necessarily stop you fulfilling your original holiday plans

In simple terms, if your illness is serious enough that you would normally have taken time off work, then by all means claim sick leave. If however it is relatively mild, although perhaps still a little uncomfortable, this may not normally stop you from working.

As ever, there is a need for employers and employees to work together. Taking sick leave for a relatively minor ailment during your holiday period may not be conducive to a prosperous working relationship.

It is also important to note that any holidays transferred to sick leave will be added back to your holiday entitlement.

The impact on your financial situation

The bottom line is that if you are ill, you are entitled to take sick leave. However, if perhaps your ailment is relatively minor, then you may also need to consider the financial consequences:-

  • When on holiday, you will receive full pay
  • When taking sick leave you will likely receive reduced income

It will depend upon the terms of your contract but at the very worst you will be entitled to statutory sick pay if you are ill. However, your statutory sick pay would not begin until your fourth day of continuous illness. So, you would have three days with no standard wages or statutory sick pay.

In a perfect world, the issue of sick pay should be relatively straightforward. If you are ill, unable to work or utilise your holiday period then you should claim statutory sick pay. However, if your illness is relatively minor you may need to consider the financial consequences.

Impact on benefit payments

If you are forced to take long-term sick leave there may be an array of benefits you can claim from the government. While there may be a temptation to take part of this leave as your holiday entitlement, there may be financial repercussions.

Many benefit payments are based upon minimum income levels. The chances are that your normal holiday pay, i.e. full pay, could take you over the income threshold. As a consequence, while you may gain additional income taking holiday entitlement this could prompt a significant reduction in benefit payments (even after your holiday entitlement has been used).

Reporting illness to your employer

Switching part of your holiday entitlement to a period of sickness might not go down too well with your employer. As a consequence, it is important that you ensure there is a paper trail and you follow the procedure to the letter of the law.

As soon as you become ill you should contact your employer and inform them of your change in circumstances. You will need to formally request that forthcoming days of leave should be reclassified as sick days. Advising your employer of illness is not something that you can do retrospectively – it must be done as soon as you fall ill.

Procedure for taking holidays at a later date

When exchanging part of your holiday entitlement for sick leave, it is important to note that the procedure for retaking these holidays does not change. If you wish to retake seven days you had initially planned then you will need to give your employer 14 days’ notice. It is not simply a case of “tagging” your missed holiday period onto the end of your sick leave.

Carrying over holiday entitlement

There are just a few situations where you are legally allowed to carry over your holiday entitlement. If you are sick and unable to attend work this is one of the situations when you can carry-over up to 4 weeks of holiday entitlement.

If you return to work during the next leave year then you will be expected to use the carried over element of holiday entitlement, plus your entitlement for that year. If you are unable to return to work, then you are entitled to carry-over a maximum of four weeks holiday entitlement for the next six months. So, in effect you are allowed to carry-over four week’s holiday entitlement for a maximum of 18 months.

It is important to remember that even if you are on sick leave, you are still technically employed and as such you will still accrue holiday entitlement. This is an issue which is often overlooked.

Taking holiday entitlement while ill

Whether you have run out of sick days or your holiday entitlement pay is much greater, there is nothing stopping you taking your holiday entitlement while ill. However, there should be no undue pressure from your employer to take such action. This should be your decision and your decision alone.

Separating sick days and holiday entitlement

While many people may find it a little “uncomfortable” ringing in halfway through their holiday to claim sickness, you are perfectly entitled to do so if it’s genuine. Whether your employer will request a doctor’s note or evidence of your illness is another matter.

Perhaps the litmus test is whether the illness/ailment would normally have prevented you from attending work. If yes, then you are perfectly entitled to claim sick pay, if no, then you may not be helping yourself with your working relationship. Think carefully.