The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has just issued its judgment in the Spanish case of Pereda v Madrid Movilidad SA, a further decision relating to the Working Time Directive which will have immediate impact for public sector workers.

Mr Pereda was a driver who towed away clamped cars, and received the fines and charges for doing so. He suffered an accident at work a fortnight before he was due to take his four weeks’ annual leave. He asked for an additional period of leave to compensate him for the period for which he was unwell. His employer, the Madrid Council, refused. The question referred to the ECJ was whether a period of sickness whilst on holiday counts towards the minimum period of four weeks’ paid annual leave under the Working Time Directive.

The ECJ held that where a worker does not wish to take annual leave during a period of sick leave, annual leave must be granted to him for a different period, even if this is outside of the annual leave period. On this basis, Mr Pereda was therefore entitled to an equivalent period of paid annual leave in lieu.

This is already common practice for many public sector institutions but serves as a useful reminder when workers request to take a further period of annual leave because they were sick during a pre-booked period of annual leave. In such cases, it may be appropriate for employers to request medical evidence of the worker's illness.