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‘Can I take my sick day as holiday please?’

22/03/2016

This is a question that can often be asked by employees, especially when there is no 'Company sick pay' and only SSP is paid for sickness absence.

It allows the employee to swap a day's sickness for holiday - so they get paid. As well as being an attractive option for the employee (as they get paid) it can also be attractive for the Company as it reduces the employees' remaining annual leave entitlement.

But can you do this legally? Well yes. There is no 'legal' reason why you cannot agree to this at your discretion if your employee requests it but there are other reasons you may NOT want to do this from an operational point of view.

Firstly, if you agree to changing a day's sickness to holiday, you must record this properly, i.e. you would convert a day's sickness to a day's holiday.

The bigger problem comes when an employee's sickness absence is becoming a problem, because now you cannot count this day as sickness absence as it's been converted to holiday! It also means that employees may get wise to the fact that if they know that a day's holiday will not be authorised (e.g. there is not enough cover), they can just throw a 'sicky' and convert it to holiday later! Suddenly you have a number of people doing this and you start to have some serious operational issues.

So my advice would be NOT to allow employees to convert sickness absence to holiday - or if you do, only do so on rare occasions and not when you have an employee whose sickness absence is becoming a problem.

One more point to remember... while an employee can request this and you can use your discretion, you cannot FORCE your employees to take holiday instead of sickness absence.

A final note: if you do agree to this, make sure your records can also highlight what absence days have been converted to holiday. This will at least allow you to monitor if someone is making a habit of this or if their overall absence is becoming unacceptably high.

 Paula Fisher. You can contact Paula at paula@practical-hr.co.uk


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