Sickness, holidays, sickness absence…this topic has been all over the news so I thought it would be useful to offer some practical advice and say don’t despair it’s not as bad as it seems.
The recent European ruling in ANGED v FASGA and others held that workers who fall ill during their holiday may take this time as sick leave and reschedule their holiday to another time.
To minimise the risk of this I suggest you consider updating your sickness procedure to include the following:
- Require that people provide a sickness/fit note, at their own expense, to cover each day of pre-booked holiday that they are off sick for
- To qualify it should be clear that their sickness has actually made them unfit for work i.e. an ear infection may stop someone swimming while on holiday but does not mean that they cannot do their job!
- Clarify in your policy that this does not apply to any additional leave provided at the discretion of the company/in excess of the working time regulations.
- Remember that unless you have a company sick pay scheme employees will only qualify for Statutory Sick Pay and this is not payable for the first 3 days of sickness absence.
- If you have a company sick pay scheme you may find it beneficial to make payments under the scheme discretionary rather than contractual; this may not be possible for existing staff but should be a consideration for new employees.
Another important case NHS V Larner means that employees on long term sick leave can continue to accrue annual leave and are automatically allowed to carry it forward. Most organisations don’t let their employees carry over leave from one year to the next but this case means that people returning to work after sickness can!
What is perhaps worse is the implication that employees on long term absence whose employment is terminated can claim payment for all the holiday they have accrued during the period of their absence: so someone who has been off sick for 2 years would be entitled to be paid for 8 weeks holiday. There is no guidance, yet, on how far back employees can claim.
So what can you do?
- Make it clear in your contracts that only statutory holiday entitlement may be carried over.
- Consider compelling employees to take annual leave while on sick leave, and pay them accordingly: this will at least spread the cost however it is not yet clear whether this would be allowable under the ruling.
- Act promptly in respect of long term sickness issues: take appropriate and reasonable action to minimise the accrual of annual leave from one year to the next.
Of course this isn’t all you should be thinking about.
Prevention is better than cure and research shows that employee engagement is one remedy you can’t afford to ignore.
Did you know Employers lost about 131 million working days as a result of sickness in 2011: that’s 4.5 days per person. 57% of people say they take time when they are not actually ill; 23% report sick due to relationship issues, 25% because they just want a day off and 6% to avoid a problem at work.
Do you know what the average number of days sickness is in your organisation? Most SME’s don’t.
Did you know that organisations with a higher proportion of engaged employees suffer 50% less sickness absence than organisations with more disengaged employees?