Court interprets clashes between sick leave and paid leave
By Ophélie Spanneut | Thursday 21 June 2012
In answer to a question referred for a preliminary hearing by the Spanish Supreme Court, the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) concluded, in a 21 June ruling, that a worker incapacitated during his annual leave is entitled to recuperate his leave at a later date.
In this case (C-78/11), the Federación de Asociaciones Sindicales (the federation of Spanish trade unions – FASGA) initiated a collective dispute settlement procedure seeking a declaration that workers covered by the collective agreement for department stores are entitled to paid annual leave even where such leave coincides with periods when they are absent from work on account of temporary disability. The Asociación Nacional de Grandes Empresas de Distribución (the national association of department stores – ANGED) is opposed to this. Spanish law and the collective agreement of department stores for 2009-2010 provides that when the period of leave coincides with a period of temporary disability resulting from pregnancy, labour or breastfeeding, employees shall be entitled to take the leave at a later point. However, Spanish law does not regulate cases of temporary incapacity due to sick leave.
In this reference for a preliminary hearing, the ECJ answered the Spanish court’s question by saying that Directive 2003/88 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time, which lays down the right to annual leave, does not allow for the Spanish regulation. The ECJ notes that the final aim of annual leave - to provide time to rest and have time to relax and enjoy leisure time - is different from the right to sick leave, which allows one to recover from illness. Moreover, according to case law (C-214/10), the right to annual leave must be considered a principle of social right, enshrined by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. It therefore cannot be interpreted in a restrictive manner.