Mr Bollacke died in November 2010 with 140.5 days untaken holiday. His wife, the executrix, sought payment in lieu from his employer for the untaken holiday, who refused. She brought an unsuccessful claim before a German court, which she appealed.

The appeal court referred the matter to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to consider the requirements of Working Time Directive 2003/88/EC. The Directive grants EU workers at least four weeks’ holiday each year, and workers leaving employment are entitled to a payment in lieu of untaken statutory holiday under Article 7.

The ECJ held that the Directive prevents national legislation from removing workers’ entitlement to paid annual leave when death is the reason for leaving employment. Accordingly, if a worker has accrued but untaken statutory annual leave entitlement at the time of his death, his estate is entitled to a payment in lieu in respect of the untaken holiday.