If you can't take your holiday because you're ill

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

If you’re ill on holiday or before you’re due to go, you can tell your employer that you want to be treated as off sick instead. That means you can save your holiday entitlement for when you’re able to enjoy it. 

Deciding whether to take sick leave or holiday

You should think about how your employer might react. If you think it will cause problems or the illness is not very serious, it’s probably not worth doing. For example, it’s probably worth doing if you’re confined to bed with illness and can’t go out but not if it won’t affect your holiday too much - like if you have a cold. 

You should also think about how much money you’ll get when you’re sick. If you don’t get your full pay when you’re sick, you might prefer to take it as holiday.

If you don’t get paid when you take holiday, it might be best to take sick leave. You should be getting ‘rolled-up holiday pay’ - this means you get an extra 12.07% on top of your normal pay each pay day. When you take sick leave, you’ll get an average of the rolled-up holiday pay you’ve been paid in the last 52 weeks. If you don’t think you’ve been paid the right amount, talk to an adviser.

Telling your employer

Follow your employer’s normal rules for letting them know you’re ill. Ask them to record your absence as sick leave instead of holiday.  

You should do this even if you wouldn’t normally need to report the sickness to your employer.

Taking your holiday at a later date

You’ll have to follow the normal rules on giving notice when asking to take your postponed holiday. Read more about the notice you have to give

If you’re on long-term sick leave and claiming benefits

It might be best to take sick leave if taking holiday will affect any benefits you’re claiming. As holiday pay is usually higher than sick pay, it might take you over the earnings limit for the benefit you’re on. 

Carrying over holiday if you’re sick

You usually have to use your holiday entitlement in the leave year it relates to. In some cases you can use some of it in the following leave year. This is called ‘carrying over’ your holiday. 

One of the circumstances when you can carry it over is if you were sick and unable to take your holiday in the leave year it relates to. If that’s the case, you can carry over up to 4 weeks of holiday. 


Zarlashta’s leave year runs from January to December. She works fixed hours and is paid the same every week. She takes a week off in April then is off sick for the rest of the year. She can carry over 3 weeks’ holiday. 

The holiday carries over to the next leave year. If you go back to work in that year, you should take it then. If you’re still off at the end of that year, you can carry it over for another 6 months. That means you can only carry it over for a total of 18 months. If you don’t take it by then, you’ll lose it. 


Shakira has been off sick since 1 May 2017. She hadn’t taken any holiday before she went on sick leave. 

Her leave year is the same as the calendar year. She can take 4 weeks of her holiday up to 18 months after the end of 2017. This means she would have been able to take her holiday up to 1 July 2019.

If you want to take your holiday while you're off sick you should give your employer notice in the usual way.

If you work irregular hours or you only work part of the year

You can carry over up to 5.6 weeks of holiday if you couldn’t use it because you were sick. You must use this holiday within 18 months from the start of the new leave year.

Taking holiday when you’re on sick leave 

You might want to do that if you’ve run out of sick leave or your holiday pay is higher than your sick pay. 

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Page last reviewed on 26 July 2019