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European sick time versus vacation time


This is one of those posts where you set out to make a point, do your research, and find that your point was wrong.

The Eurozone economy is a mess right now, by all accounts, with Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain (the PIGS, as they are known in economic circles) requesting bailouts. Cyprus joined the PIGS yesterday in requesting a bailout (now it’s PIGSC?).

Now the Court of Justice for the European Union, the European Union’s high court, has ruled that workers who get sick during their annual vacation are entitled to take another vacation. This is because the worker’s right to annual leave trumps all, the court said. In practice, this means that the original scheduled annual leave would have to be declared “sick time,” and then the worker has the right to reschedule annual leave later.

The case arose from a series of cases in Spain where Spanish workers who got sick or injured during their prescheduled annual leave were not allowed to reschedule their vacations later, which is legal under Spanish law. (I presume they lost the vacation time completely? That seems hard to believe but perhaps it’s true.)

The information I read up to now made it sound bad, like workers will just claim they were sick, then get more vacation time to “replace” it. But actually, that’s how the companies I’ve worked for operate. If you get sick during a vacation, you can claim it as sick time. If you aren’t allowed to take more vacation later, then you simply roll your vacation time over to next year, or you get paid for it at the end of the year. Normally you don’t lose your vacation time, it just accrues. Maybe that’s unusual. Most people seem to be lucky to get two weeks of vacation a year, but I think the same rules apply… you can claim it as sick time if you spent it sick. Then your vacation time can be saved for a future date.

I’ve spent several vacations either sick or injured, though, and I didn’t bother to claim it as sick time. I don’t have enough time to take all my vacation anyway. I get nearly as much vacation as the Europeans do, but I only take it because my darling wife requires me to take it. I can’t imagine taking six weeks off every year, especially in a block. I’m bored after a week of vacation. Six weeks of vacation would be torture. Before I got married, I usually just asked to be paid for it, so I wouldn’t have to take it. Marriage changed that.

So the EU court issued its ruling about vacation time, but the Spanish high court can override it. It will be interesting to see what happens.

  1. 2012-06-27T02:48:29-04:00 02:48

    That’s an intriguing situation – I don’t even know if we have that in New Zealand. It’s just not something I’ve ever thought of before. I’ve always just considered it bad luck to get sick at holiday time. I like it, though.
    Not that we have a tendency to take all our holidays, anyway (I’m a mother of a toddler, now … holidays? what’re those?). These days, we just can’t afford to do anything, so we just keep plodding along. As the sprog grows up, though, I think taking holidays will be mandatory.


    • 2012-06-27T21:02:51-04:00 21:02

      Yes, especially once he’s in boarding school… you can just take off and enjoy yourself, anytime. ;->


      • 2012-06-27T22:30:12-04:00 22:30

        Boarding school sounds expensive. Na, I’m sure we can come to an arrangement where he can be home. Maybe I’ll even have my own office … When the door’s shut, mummy’s writing, do… not… enter.


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