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Sick pay + Holiday pay = £££?

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In a recent decision likely to cause employers more headaches at a time when several are already struggling, the European Court of Justice has ruled that on their return to work employees who have been on long term sick leave are entitled to take all the holiday they have accrued whilst off sick.

In a recent decision likely to cause employers more headaches at a time when several are already struggling, the European Court of Justice has ruled that on their return to work employees who have been on long term sick leave are entitled to take all the holiday they have accrued whilst off sick.

Potentially, this means that workers who usually work standard office hours of 9-5 on Monday to Friday who were absent from work for, say, two years could be entitled to at least 56 days of leave (including allowance for public holidays) on their return to work.

Furthermore, workers who are dismissed or leave employment whilst on long-term sick leave are now entitled to a lump sum in respect of accrued sick leave.

So how can employers be pro-active to avoid a situation where they could be left with a large payment to make?

Paul Grindley, who leads the Employment team at Keeble Hawson said this week:

"Employers should seek to avoid situations not just where they are left with a large payment to make to an employee for his or her accrued sick leave, but also where an employee returns to work, but is unable to integrate themselves back into the workplace successfully because they are struggling to cope with the workload whilst taking large amounts of paid holiday. Should an employer dismiss an employee in the latter situation, the employee may have a claim for unfair dismissal because the employer has penalised him or her for asserting a statutory right!"

Examples of action than can be taken include updating contracts and absence management policies, to allow for the employer to arrange promptly for its own Occupational Health expert to review the employee's fitness for work.

Ensuring the current sickness procedure clearly gives the employer discretion to dismiss employees fairly on the grounds of capability within a relatively short but reasonable timescale and last but not least, reviewing the situation of all current long term absentees with a view to minimising any currently accruing liability to them.

If this is an area of concern for you, please do not hesitate to contact Paul Grindley on 0113 3993424 or email paulgrindley@keeblehawson.co.uk.

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