Can an employee take annual leave while on long-term sickness absence?

An employee who is on long-term sickness absence may wish to book a period of annual leave in order to receive full pay for that period, for example if he or she has exhausted all entitlement to sick pay, or is receiving only statutory sick pay.

The law does not prevent employees from taking annual leave while on sickness absence. It would usually be in an employer's interests to agree to an employee's request to take annual leave, to avoid him or her accruing significant amounts of leave while on sickness absence. If it refuses the request, the employer would have to allow the employee to take the accrued annual leave on his or her return to work (even if this means carrying it over to the next leave year), or pay the employee the accrued holiday pay on termination of employment.

Further, there is a risk that the refusal of a request for annual leave when the employee is already absent from work could be a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence. The employer would not be able to argue that it had to refuse the request in order to maintain staffing levels.