Leave Management

What to do if you're sick whilst on annual leave

What to do if you fall ill whilst on annual leave - and how HR should handle it...
Sean QuinnPosted on Monday, May 22nd 2023

What should you do when the worst happens; you're on a long-awaited holiday (or about to depart for a trip) and you're suddenly struck ill?

If you've used your precious days of annual leave to book your holiday, you may be wondering if you can claim these back, and take off sick leave instead.

Can you claim back annual leave if you get sick whilst on holiday?

The short answer is, yes. If you are too unwell to work, you have the right to request sick leave from your employer. If you are ill before or during a holiday, you still have the right to take sick leave.

This means you can claim back annual leave days that you used for your holiday, and take them at a different time instead.

It might seem like a great idea to switch your annual leave for sick leave, in order to claim back your holiday entitlement and use it another time when you feel well. However, it's worth bearing in mind how this will impact your pay.
Depending on your employer's policies, this may mean only receiving Statutory Sick Pay for the time you're off, which might be less than you'd receive as holiday pay.

This switch can also be done in reverse, if your employer agrees to it - for example, taking holiday when you're off sick, in order to receive holiday pay rather than sick pay.

Do you accrue leave whilst sick?

Whilst on sick leave, you'll still accrue holiday in the same way you would whilst you're working.

If you've been unable to use your annual leave entitlement during the leave year due to being off on long-term sick, you can carry over some of your unused entitlement. You can generally carry over up to 4 weeks of your unused sick leave to the next year, unless your employer specifically allows you to carry over more.

How should HR handle this situation?

Employees must make a formal request to swap their annual leave for sick leave, by following your normal sick leave procedures. Generally, an absence of less than 7 days can be self-certified; any absences longer than 7 days (including weekends and bank holidays) must be certified with a fit note from a medical professional.

Employees will also need to follow normal company policy when it comes to rebooking their holiday, for example taking note of any notice periods for requesting leave.

HR should document that the original period of time off is now being taken as sick leave in their absence management system by changing the leave type associated with the booking. This means any leave entitlement balances will be updated, so employees know exactly how many days they have remaining.

For more information about your employees leave entitlement in the UK, see our blog on annual leave FAQs.

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