The European Court of Justice has ruled that in the event of a worker’s death, national legislation which precludes the payment of annual paid leave is against EU law.
Every worker is entitled to paid annual leave of at least four weeks and the period of leave may not be replaced by an allowance in lieu, unless the employment relationship ends, the Court says, referring to the Working Time Directive.
The European Court of Justice is the highest court in the European Union in matters of European Union law.
The ruling comes following a suit by the widow of Mr Bollacke (no first name given), a German worker who was employed by the retailer K+K from 1 August 1998 until 19 November 2010, the date of his death.
Bollacke had been seriously ill since 2009 as a result of which he was unfit to work until the date of his death. On that date, Bollacke had accumulated 140.5 days of annual leave outstanding and his widow widow submitted an application to K+K for an allowance in lieu which corresponded to the annual leave not taken by her husband which K+K rejected.
On Thursday (12 June), the EU Court of Justice stated that the right to paid annual leave is a particularly important principle of social law, noting that the expression ‘paid annual leave’ means that, for the duration of annual leave, the worker’s remuneration must be maintained.
"The unintended occurrence of the worker’s death must not retroactively lead to a total loss of the entitlement to paid annual leave. Consequently, the Court rules that EU law precludes national legislation or practice which provide that, where the employment relationship is terminated by the death of the worker, the entitlement to paid annual leave is lost without conferring entitlement to an allowance in lieu of leave outstanding," the Court said in a statement.