What do you do if an employee is sick whilst on holiday?

What happens when a member of staff is sick while on annual leave?

Sometimes employees may feel they have been deprived of their holiday if they were ill whilst on annual leave. Is that just tough luck for them or can they take their holiday another time?

According to a recent European Court decision, they can reschedule their holiday for another time.

This may be bad news for employers who feel that employees may abuse this right.

What steps should you take to prevent abuse by employees claiming to be sick whilst on holiday?

You may want to consider the following points:-

1. The chance of abuse is likely to be much less where employees are only entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP), as opposed to full salary whilst off sick. The three-day waiting period (during which no SSP is due), together with the low value of SSP, are themselves likely to make the option of turning paid holiday into sick leave less attractive.

2. If you provide contractual sick pay, you can require employees to report sickness to their manager on the first day, and require medical evidence for longer absences.

3. You can limit sick pay where the worker falls ill during holiday; for example, by withholding contractual sick pay unless medical evidence (over and above self-certification) is produced. However, this approach might require changes to contracts of employment, and could also imply a lack of trust and therefore send the wrong message. Moreover, workers on holiday outside the UK might not be able to report sickness at the time or get the required medical evidence. Even if they are on holiday in the UK, doctors’ notes for short periods of sickness might prove difficult to obtain.

4. Recording and monitoring sickness absence properly will help to identify abuse of the system. You should make staff aware that any such abuse could lead to disciplinary action.

5. You only have to pay sick pay if the employee would be unfit to do their job. The fact that a worker cannot “enjoy” their holiday (for example, because a sprained ankle makes skiing impossible) is beside the point, and need not be treated as sick leave.

This is clearly a tricky issue for employers to manage.

If you need help managing a difficult employee or if you want to discuss changing your employment contracts, feel free to call me on 01604 601 575 or complete the form below and I will call you back.

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