Holidays and sickness absence

Here again, Brexit may change the current situation on how sickness affects your statutory holiday rights.

Under European Union legislation, you continue to build up the portion of your statutory annual leave governed by the Working Time Directive when you are off sick. You can opt either to take paid holiday while off sick, or to save it up to take once you have returned to work. It's unclear what arrangements will hold at the end of the Brexit transition period.

You cannot get sick pay and holiday pay at the same time.

Taking holiday while off sick

You can take holiday while off sick. This might be because you:

  • are not physically able to work, but physically able to take a holiday.
  • have a mental health condition that might be helped by a holiday.
  • are off sick long-term, and a holiday might help your recovery.

Taking paid holiday while off sick may also make sense if you have exhausted your entitlement to contractual sick pay.

It is your responsibility to request holiday while off sick. An employer cannot force you to take it while off sick.

If your employer approves your holiday request:

  • your sick leave can be paused while you take holiday.
  • you should get holiday pay while you are on holiday.

After you have taken the holiday, your sick leave can continue if you are still not well enough to return to work.

Carrying over unused holiday after absence through sickness

If sickness prevents you taking statutory holiday, your employer must let you carry it forward into the next leave year. This holds even if your contract does not allow for it. If your illness was caused by coronavirus, or you were self-isolating because of it, you must be allowed to carry forward holiday into the next two leave years.

This right applies only to the four weeks of holiday governed by the WTD.

If you have untaken holiday resulting from sickness or injury unconnected with coronavirus, you can carry it forward for up to 18 months after the end of the leave year in which it built up. Beyond this point, you will lose it.

If you fall ill while on holiday

If you become ill during any of your four weeks' statutory holiday specified by the WTD, or before beginning a pre-booked statutory holiday, you must tell your employer. Once you have done this, you can:

  • get sick pay for the time you were sick, as long as you are entitled to sick pay.
  • keep the period you were sick to use as holiday another time. You must be allowed to reschedule your holiday in the next leave year if your employer cannot grant your requested dates in the current one.

Your employer may have different rules for the portion of your leave not covered by the WTD.