In an important ruling, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) said last week that the right to paid annual leave cannot be interpreted restrictively.

As a result, workers who fall sick during their holidays are entitled to take the leave at a later date.

The court said the Working Time Directive gives workers the right to at least four weeks' paid annual leave "even where such leave coincides with periods of sick leave at a later point in time, irrespective of the point at which the incapacity for work arose”.

The case - Asociación Nacional de Grandes Empresas de Distribución v Federación de Asociaciones Sindicales and ors - was brought by a federation of Spanish trade unions against a group of department stores. The decision applies to all European Union member states.

This judgment builds on the 2009 European court decision of Stringer and ors v HMRC in which Thompsons represented PCS members and which confirmed the right of workers to paid annual leave even when they were on sick leave.

The CJEU decision is in stark contrast to the direction of travel of the UK’s coalition government which continues its systematic withdrawal of workers’ rights.

Following the call for evidence on collective redundancy rules earlier this year, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has now published a consultation on reducing the 90-day minimum consultation period for large scale redundancies (over 100 staff) to 45 or 30 days.

It also seeks views on introducing a new, non-statutory, code of practice to “give clearer information on how to conduct good quality consultations”.

The government has confirmed, however, that it will not change the protective award which currently stands at a maximum of 90 days’ pay for each employee affected by a failure to consult.

The consultation closes on 19 September.

To access the CJEU decision, go to Court of Justice website

To access the consultation paper [pdf, 299KB], go to the BIS website