The case of Stringer v HMRC has reached its conclusion at long last. This case, which was previously called Ainsworth v Commissioners of Inland Revenue, has been full of twists and turns. Essentially, though, the crux of the case was focused on two key questions: Should workers be entitled to take paid statutory holidays while they are off work on sick leave? Also should employees who have been on long term sick leave have the entitlement to be paid in lieu of their accrued statutory holidays if their employment is terminated?
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) addressed these two questions on the 20th January and the answers have overturned the current position in the UK, which has not been welcome news for employers. Further clarification was also provided on the issue of accruing statutory holiday entitlement when sick leave straddles two or more holiday years. The House of Lords has now made its final ruling which supports the previous judgements of the ECJ.
The Working Time Directive entitles workers to a minimum of four weeks holiday. The House of Lords ruling concludes that workers continue to accrue holidays for the duration of their sick leave and must be allowed to take their holidays on their return to work or be compensated in terms of sick pay if their employment terminates.
Employers will now need to review their sickness, holiday and maternity policies and come to terms with the financial implications of this judgement. They will also have a responsibility to effectively manage sickness otherwise workers will continue to bank plenty of annual leave days whilst off work for long periods of time.
Employees can now use this ruling to challenge those employers who continue to deny workers their legal rights.