Staff that fall sick while on annual leave can take those paid holiday days again at a later date, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled.
Employers will be expected by law to give their workers another chance to take annual leave if they are struck by illness as indicated by the EU-wide policy.
British businesses are expected to implement the legislation from October, with fears arising over the potential for employees to take advantage of the directive.
The Luxembourg-based court said: “The purpose of entitlement to paid leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure.
“The purpose of entitlement to sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him to be unfit for work.”
According to the ECJ, it would be “arbitrary and contrary” to the purpose of paid holiday leave to prevent workers from exchanging this for sick leave where relevant.
Ahead of the changes, business secretary Vince Cable hit out the proposals, suggesting they would cause extra burdens for companies already operating under challenging economic times.
However, employment partner at Berrymans Lace Mawer, Vanessa Latham, argued the directive would have little impact on businesses as it does not change the fact employees can falsely call in ill.
She told HR Magazine: “In practice, the ruling is not likely to result in a significant increase in absences for two reasons.”
In the first instance, employees who are sick for a period of time still need to gain a doctor’s note as proof of their illness.
Ms Latham continued: “The decision will not make it any easier for employees to call in sick, as employees could do so just as easily regardless of having booked annual leave.