An employee is still entitled to paid annual leave, even if they have been off sick for an entire year, a court has ruled.
A landmark case involving NHS Leeds clerical worker Janet Larner found employers cannot withhold paid annual leave from those with lengthy sickness absences.
As such, the Court of Appeal ruled that part-time, 20 hour-a-week Larner was entitled to her paid leave for the year 2009/10 when she was off sick for the whole year.
Larner worked for NHS Leeds from 2000 and went off on sick leave in January 2009 and never returned.
When the trust dismissed her in April 2010, Larner's compensation package did not include the untaken paid leave for 2009/10 on the grounds she had neither requested it, nor asked for it to be carried forward.
Lawyers argued Larner had been too ill during her absence and was not even thinking of taking holidays.
In its judgement, the Court of Appeal said: "[Larner] was entitled to carry her untaken paid leave forward to the next leave year in 2010/11 without making a prior request to do so."
"This case was being watched by a number of NHS trusts for its outcome – and, in this respect, it is a landmark judgement," said Barrie Brown, Unite's National Officer for Health.
"Even though the sum involved in this case is less than £1,000, it shows that employers, not just in the NHS, can't deduct holiday pay from sick employees in this fashion. The Court of Appeal ruling upholds an important principle and draws a line in the sand for other employers thinking along these lines."