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Fallen ill on holiday? Use this sick-leave loophole

Ko Lipe, Satun Province, Thailand. Photo: Getty Images.
Ko Lipe, Satun Province, Thailand. Photo: Getty Images.

Most of us count the days until our next holiday, when we can finally relax in the sun with a glass of wine in hand and a good book in the other.

Far away from the confines of the office, emails and meetings, you should be making the most of your time off. But sometimes your luck can run out - and instead of sangria and beach barbecues, you’re stuck with your head in the toilet bowl, wishing you were at home in bed.

And to top it all off, you’re still using up your annual leave.

So with time off limited, what happens if you fall ill while on holiday?

There is some good news, at least. If you become unwell or are injured while on holiday, you can claim it as a day of sick leave rather than annual leave, according to Citizens Advice.


“If you fall ill while on holiday you can treat it as time off sick rather than annual leave,” says Tracey Moss, employment expert at Citizens Advice.

“The usual rules will apply about telling your employer and you’ll need to meet the rules about proof of illness.

“If you decide you want to treat this time off as sickness, you will not receive your holiday pay in your next wage but your normal rate of sick pay.”

“If you’re unwell while on annual leave, let your employer know and follow any procedures you normally have to when you need a sick day, such as phoning your manager.”

Any statutory holiday entitlement that is not used because of illness can be carried over into the next leave year, according to

In the case of Pereda v Movilidad in 2009, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that workers who are sick during a period of pre-arranged annual leave are entitled to defer the leave until a later date, after they have recovered.

How much holiday are workers entitled to?

In the UK, most workers who work a five-day week must receive at least 28 days’ paid annual leave a year. This is the equivalent to 5.6 weeks of holiday. Bank holidays or public holidays don’t have to be given as paid leave.

Those working irregular hours, such as shift workers or term-time workers, are entitled to paid time off for every hour they work.

Part-time workers are entitled to at least 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday, but this will amount to fewer than 28 days.

Workers also have the right to get paid for leave, accrue holiday entitlement during maternity, paternity and adoption leave, build up holiday entitlement while off work sick and also request holiday at the same time as sick leave.

What do you do if you fall ill?

If you become unwell, you can take time off work. However, you need to give your employer proof if you are sick for more than a week.

Employees must give their employer a doctor’s “fit note” - otherwise known as a “sick note” - if they’ve been ill for more than seven days in a row and have taken sick leave. This includes non-working days, such as weekends and bank holidays.

Workers who are off work sick for more than four weeks may be considered long-term sick. However, someone who is off work sick in the long term is still entitled.

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