Taking Holiday Instead of Sick Leave – Sick Pay Vs Holiday Pay Guide

If you’re off work and worried about financial impacts, you may be considering taking holiday instead of sick leave. This can mean you don’t lose income if your employer does not offer contractual sick pay.

But is it OK to take annual leave on a sick day? We’ll take a look at sick pay vs holiday pay and employee rights when off work sick.

Why Take Holidays Instead of Sick Leave?

Holiday pay is paid at a higher rate than statutory sick pay. Taking some annual leave days will ease financial burdens while you are laid up.

If you only qualify for Statutory Sick Pay, you’ll end up losing wages. It’s only payable after 4 days illness, only covers a low amount of wages, and may not be enough to cover your bills.

Perhaps you’ve accrued holidays while you have been off sick and your sick pay has run out? Taking holidays accrued whilst off sick can help financially if you are off work long term.

About Sick Pay & Holiday Pay

Sick pay may be paid to employees as enhanced contractual sick pay. If this is not offered, they will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay.

SSP is paid out once an employee has been off sick for 4 consecutive days. This can include non working days. It can be paid for a maximum of 28 weeks per year. After sick pay runs out other benefits may be sought for long term sick leave.

Holiday Pay

Everyone is entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holidays per year. These are accrued annualy based on the hours you work per week.

Holiday pay is worked out by the employer and paid to you in the normal way. Some employers may include bank holidays within the annual leave and others may not count these.

The important thing to note here is that it is not possible to take sick and holiday pay at the same time. However, this still begs the question: can you switch from sick pay to holiday pay during time off ill?

Can You Use Holiday to Cover Sickness?

It’s perfectly legal to ask your employer for those days you are ill to instead be booked as a holiday. However, this will be at the discretion of your employer and they aren’t obligated to agree to this request.

Some employers don’t like to allow employees to take holiday instead of sick leave. This is because it makes it difficult for them to track sickness absence amongst employees.

Can You Go From Sick Leave to Annual Leave?

It’s legal to transfer from sick leave to annual leave, but will be at the discretion of the employer. They are not obligated to allow you to use holiday entitlements in this way.

However, sometime, it works out in the best interests of the company too. It stops too many days from being accrued if the member of staff has been on long term sick.

It can also be beneficial to the employee, especially if they are on long term sick with SSP coming to an end. Receiving full pay for any holiday entitlement will give them peace of mind until they review their situation.

Can My Employer Make Me Take Sick Days as Holiday?

An employer has no legal right to ask or force you to take sick days as your holiday. This is a decision that is up to employees and no one else.

Your boss may well let you know that you have this option should you want it, but there should be no pressure. It may be of financial benefit to explore this though as holidays are paid at full wage rates whereas sick pay may not be as generous.

Do You Accrue Holiday On Sick Leave?

Even when you are off sick short or long term, you still accrue holiday as you would if you were working normally.

Any holidays that have been left unused by an employee due to being on sick leave should be carried over and then used within 18 months.  Should the employee have lots of accrued holiday, then employers only have to allow 4 weeks to be carried over.

If an employee does not return to work and resigns during sick leave then accrued holiday pay must be included in their final pay.

Holiday and Sick Pay: The Facts

  • Employees cannot be in receipt of both holiday and sick pay at the same time.
  • You can request some sick days to be taken as holidays. However, there’s no statutory right to be granted this by your employer.
  • Employees carry on accruing holidays as normal even on long-term sick.
  • Employees can switch from sick to holiday and then back again if the employer permits this.
  • The unused accrued holiday can be carried over to the next year of annual leave.
  • Employers cannot force their employees to take holiday days while they are off sick.
  • Employees can have their own sick pay rates but they cannot be less than SSP.
  • Holiday entitlement is based on an employee’s hours and this can be calculated online.

Further Reading on taking holiday instead of sick leave


Will I lose my holiday when off sick?

When off sick, the holiday is still accrued and every worker is still entitled to these days whether they are at work or off sick. These days are not lost and if they are not used then your employer should carry over a minimum of 4 weeks’ holiday to next year’s annual leave.

How long can I be off work sick?

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to how long you can be off sick from the workplace but companies will have policies to guide them through such times. It can be a stressful time for all concerned so knowing your rights will help a lot. SSP runs out after 28 weeks and companies may have their own rules in place for sick pay but this can’t be less than SSP.

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