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ECJ ruling on annual leave and sickness basically ruins head of HR's entire summer

Posted by: Laurence Simons 26/06/12

Workers in the EU will now be able to claim sick leave during paid vacation.

Holiday news now, and nobody is ever going on holiday again. Not in the UK at least, where, baffled by the Olympics, 41 per cent of adults are going to turn around on the spot, umm and ahh at the airport terminus, and spend two sad weeks getting resolutely untanned on a UK beach. It's called a 'staycation', and it sounds terrible. Seriously, it sounds awful.

However, thanks to a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling made this week, Brits can eek an extra few nights of misery out of their holiday at home, and the world of annual leave could be about to change forever.

Annual leave, in review: book a fortnight off work six months in advance, get on a plane to a foreign climate, drink a single glass of water then spend the next thirteen days shouting tumultuously at the nearest toilet. So it is, so it shall always be. But thanks to the ECJ, reprieve: European workers who fall ill during annual leave will be entitled to additional time off after they have delicately sat back down to work.

Already, pretty much everyone has spotted the fault here. The ECJ has drawn up a gaping loophole the size of the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. "What if I phone in sick, croaky-voiced, while sunning myself on a beach in Magaluf?" thinks everyone. "Will I get to spend more time away from work?"

In short: yes. In long: you are very immoral for thinking that. "You will always get one or two employees in any work place who will abuse it, but you don't design a policy for these one or two," says Allen & Overy professional support lawyer Sheila Fahy. "Most employers have a common sense attitude to this and I think the employees will as well."

Which is where, for in-house legal jobs at least, being all up on compliance is a must. As a recent Laurence Simons Compliance Market Trend report found, 83 per cent of heads of compliance came from the legal profession, and those other 17 per cent were sourced from a variety of different backgrounds, including HR.

And of those, knowing who is phoning in sick while tripping round ones in a muddy Glastonbury field and who is genuinely bunged up with fever is now a major factor thanks to the ECJ, and the new ruling could have a real impact on their day-to-day dealings in the run up to summer holiday season.