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Can Employees Take Sick Days as Holiday?

30 January 2020 4 min read

Sick arab woman looking at thermometer, checking her temperature

As a manager, you have probably been there. After a nice bank holiday weekend, you receive a call an hour before work:

Employee: “Hi Bob, I have been feeling ill all weekend and won’t be able to make it into work today.”

Manager: “OK, thank you for letting me know, get some rest, and hope you feel better soon.”

Employee: “Thanks. I will let you know how I feel tonight.”

Now when the employee returns to work, he waits for your weekly catch-up and asks whether the day he was off sick, could be logged as a holiday instead so he can get paid for it. But isn’t that unfair to your business? Surely, he knew that he wouldn’t be paid when he took the day off?

This blog will let you know whether it’s possible to take sick days as a holiday and whether employers can make an employee use their annual leave as sick days.

Is it legal to take sick days as a holiday?

There are no legal barriers that stop sick days from being converted to the holiday, it’s all at the business’ discretion. But there can be benefits for both the business and the employee in question.

If a day of holiday allowance is used, it means that the employee will be working one more day that year, ensuring another day of productivity. The employee can also reduce the number of sick days on their record and receive pay as normal rather than statutory sick pay.

At the moment this sounds all good, a win-win situation for both sides, right? But there are some problems that you will need to think about before converting this sick day to a holiday.

If the business in question doesn’t record the sick day as an absence, it will obscure their absence data. The business will not have an accurate representation of employee absence and will be unable to spot underlying absence patterns in the long term.

Have a problem with long-term absences? Check out our blog on how to manage long term sickness absences

Also, it will encourage employees that are declined holiday to just log it as a sick day and negotiate it to be counted as a holiday further down the line.



Can businesses make their employees use their holiday allowance when off sick?

In some rare cases, managers have tried to get their employee’s sick days to be logged as a holiday. This is something no employee wants to hear when they are genuinely ill, the stress over losing holiday can even amplify their symptoms causing them to be away from work for longer. Any business that cares about its people aims to make life easier for them, not worse.

The good news is that businesses are not allowed to force employees to use holiday allowance when off sick. They can tell them when to take leave and decide whether to approve and decline it. But two days’ notice needs to be given for each day off they want you to take. Meaning they can’t tell you to take sick days as a holiday without enough prior warning.

How to avoid this dilemma?

So, your business like most others may want to avoid these awkward situations, to begin with. Adopting a flexible approach to employee working times can help with this greatly, through this you can allow employees to work from home or perhaps make up the hours they’ve missed another time. Eliminating the need for awkward conversations about converting sick days to the holiday.

Outlining your approach in an employee absence management policy, will also clearly define and communicate how circumstances like this should be addressed.

For information on the benefits and support Edays can bring to your business for matters such as the above, request a demo.

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Katrina Bennett People Director at edays
January 30, 2020

Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.