Sick on Vacation? EU Courts Grant You a Do-Over

Posted by Mike Tirone - Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Europe has seen its fair share of misery in terms of the Greek debt crisis, unemployment issues, questioning the euro currency and plenty of economies with severe instability. Everyday life in some of these struggling countries is painful, as citizens hope to get through the day with enough food, water and shelter.

But when it comes down to guaranteed, paid vacation time for these Europeans, there is nothing more that they value more. Already one of the more liberal regions of the world in regards to vacation time, now Europe has made the rest of the world turn even greener with envy.

Across the continent, the majority of the countries are entitled four to six weeks of guaranteed vacation leave each year. And what happens if you hit a streak of bad luck and fall ill during your vacation? In America we'd says “tough luck, get back to work,” while in Europe, they will offer you a mulligan.

According to the New York Times, a EU court ruled on Thursday that workers who happen to fall ill while on vacation are legally entitled to get a do-over on their time off.

So if you happen to catch a cold while lounging on the beaches of Thailand, or fall sick before your ski trip to the Alps, don't worry! You get to do it all over again!

beach vacation

The decision was made after Spanish department store workers brought their case to the Spanish court. They won their case arguing that collective bargaining agreements distinguish a clear line between annual leave and sick leave.

Following the ruling the National Association of Large Distribution Businesses (known as Anged) appealed to the Supreme Court in Madrid, which then handed the matter over to Europe's highest court.

From the New York Times,

““The purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure... “The purpose of entitlement to sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him to be unfit for work,”” the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled.

While Europe is trying to stay afloat by battling the recession and keep unemployment rates down, rulings such as this remind people of the difficult it is to change deep-rooted and long-establish labor policies. It does not help that many nations are getting more comfortable with their protesting abilities, as particular Spanish unions have protested in the past weeks against Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his attempts to ease restrictions on hiring and firing. The Prime Minister essentially would be overhauling the labor laws with these attempts.

The previous ruling was that a sick person could reschedule a trip if they got sick right before it, but the new ruling has extended that provision to the vacation itself, explaining that, “The point at which the temporary incapacity arose is irrelevant.”

The new ruling will be now be applied across all of the 27 European Union countries.

So how does the rest of the world measure up to such lax vacation regulations? Well according to Think Progress, The United States is no where close to enacting a ruling similar to this.

In fact, the United States is alone among the developed world in not providing its citizens with guaranteed vacation days (paid or unpaid) as a right of employment, as the following chart of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries compiled by the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows:

global vacation days 

As you can see, the United States is virtually alone among rich nations in depriving citizens of these basic necessities.”

As they say, pick your poison: You could live in America and work until you die with barely any vacation days, or move to the European continent that continues to fall deeper into the sink hole of its recession with no end in sight. But hey, look at the upside! If you happen to be incredibly hung over off of too many piña coladas on the shores of Ibiza that you must lay in your bungalow all day to recovery, make sure you re-do that trip because of it.


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