Now that the peak holiday season is over, many UK employers will be breathing a sigh of relief. Holidays can cause them a great deal of stress for a variety of reasons, not least because of the legal confusion around the interplay between holidays and sickness absence.

In the “old days”, many employers tended not to differentiate between the various types of absence, and reacted less than graciously if somebody who had been off sick put in a holiday request. “Haven’t they had enough time off?” the indignant manager would ask December Global Holidays. Those days are gone; the law recognises that sickness absence is time off to enable an employee to recover from illness or injury which prevents them from working, whereas holiday is time off for rest, relaxation and leisure.

The European Court of Justice has recently confirmed in a Spanish case, that if an employee falls ill while on holiday, he/she has the right to have those days reclassified as sickness absence, and take the holiday at a later date. This is a logical extension of previous rulings that somebody falling ill just before going on a pre-booked holiday should be allowed to reschedule that holiday so they can take it when they’re fit enough to enjoy it.

But if a person becomes unwell or injured while on holiday, perhaps abroad, there are practical issues to be considered. What kind of proof should an employer ask for, to substantiate claims of illness? How can the duration of the illness be determined for sick pay purposes? What if the employee is in a place where it is difficult to get a medical certificate? What about notification procedures? Normally, an employer will expect a telephone call on the first day of sickness; is it reasonable to ask for a call from an employee who is on holiday? What if they are in a remote location with no mobile phone reception?