Illness during annual leave - where do employers stand?

The advent of the summer months is often greeted with a great deal of anticipation in the workplace. Not only might we get the odd few days of warm weather here in the UK, but the summer months are often the time when staff choose to take periods of annual leave and spend time away with their family.

By Karen Credie, KMCHR.

I’m sure employers do not begrudge their staff taking a well earned break but organising holidays can be difficult to manage from an operational perspective. Not only is there the possibility of clashing holiday requests, but you will often need to rearrange rotas over the summer or find additional staff to cover periods of absence.

The headache for employers can get even worse if employees fall sick during a period of annual leave. It may surprise you to know that employees are entitled to claim back annual leave in the event they become ill whilst they are on holiday. However, the right is not automatic and employers should be aware of their position if any of their employees do apply to have annual leave reinstated.

If an employee wants to reclaim annual leave due to a period of sickness, they will have to have complied with the company’s normal sickness reporting procedures. For most businesses, this dictates a phone call into work in the morning on the first day of absence, usually before a specified time. Whilst some leniency should be applied to the time of the call, it is fair to uphold that a phone call be made and that texts or emails do not suffice.

Depending on the details of your sickness policy, the employee will also have to comply with other requirements – be they phoning work on every subsequent day of illness or producing medical evidence for prolonged periods of illness – in order to have the relevant number of days off credited.

All of the company policies and procedures regarding holidays should be outlined in your staff handbook. It is important that this is updated in line with any changes to policy and is made available to staff to access at any time.

If you have an enquiry relating to the annual leave or sickness absence of your employees, we would be happy to help out. Our online HR management software can help with the recording and processing of both holiday and sickness absence. In addition, we can assist with drafting or updating your company’s employee handbook, protecting your business should HR issues arise.