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Practice calendar: February

Your practice manager is injured on a skiing holiday. What leave are they entitled to?

The problem

As the January blues kick in, employees may find themselves booking holidays and in particular heading to the slopes to take part in some winter sports. However, it is not uncommon for injuries to result and staff then needing to take time off sick to recover – but does this have any implication on absence policies?

Expert advice

An employee who falls ill whilst on holiday may, in certain circumstances, be able to treat their time off work whilst ill as sick leave rather than holiday and therefore retain that holiday for use at a later time. This is a fairly newly established principle in law and it is unclear whether the principle applies across the board or whether illness or injury caused by the holiday would fall outside it.

Until more guidance appears, there is a risk of employees seeking to reclaim holiday lost to illness or injury. However, if they wish to treat time off as sick leave then they will need to have complied with the practice’s sickness absence policy. For example, reported absence by a certain time on the first day of sickness and any other criteria that are set.

With this in mind, practices may want to consider tightening up sickness reporting procedures – including for example reserving the right to get a doctor’s note even for short absences, to create more hoops for the employee to get through.

Practices should check the terms of their sickness policy as to whether there are any circumstances in which enhanced sick pay will not be paid. One such example could be where the sickness or injury has been caused by an employee being injured participating in a dangerous hobby or sport. Having said that, these days skiing and snowboarding are regular sports and it may be difficult to rely on such a clause unless they have, for example, been injured whilst skiing or snowboarding off-piste or doing a dangerous sport which is less common.

Alison Graham is a healthcare employment lawyer at Veale Wasbrough Vizards

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