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Can employees carry over holiday on sick leave?

Sickness absence together with accrued but untaken holiday can be a minefield for employers and advisers alike. The recent case of Plumb v Duncan Print Group Ltd UKEAT (8 July 2015) provides further guidance on managing accrued but untaken holiday when dealing with long-term sickness absence (note the case may still be appealed).

Can employees carry over holiday on sick leave? In essence, an employee on long-term sickness absence can carry forward statutory holiday for 18 months from the end of the leave year if they do not take or request to take their holiday entitlement during their sick leave. An employer must assume that if they have not made a request, they are either unable or unwilling to take it! There is no requirement for an employee to demonstrate that they are unable to take it. As an example, where a business’s holiday year is 1 January to 31 December and an employee has been absent for 9 months up to 31 December 2014 (and, let’s say, hasn’t used or requested to take any holiday during the holiday year), that employee will be able to use his accrued statutory holiday up until 30 June 2016. This accrued holiday entitlement will be in addition to his/her holiday entitlement for 2015 and 2016.

This is another blow for employers as it has both operational and financial implications for a business, this additional ‘absence’ is likely to result in further strain on an existing team, a requirement for overtime by others and perhaps the need for agency staff to cover the shortfall. Unfortunately this legal obligation cannot be avoided but the knowledge of this obligation means that businesses can start to plan for the additional leave requirements and budget ahead in situations when they have had to deal with long-term sickness absence.

Dealing with sickness absence is a difficult matter for businesses and will often require specialist support and guidance to deal with. If your business is dealing with long term sickness absence and you require assistance, please contact us at or on 01425 205391.