Europeans Are Sick of Giving Up Their Vacation Days

by  Mike Barish | Jun 27, 2012
Passport / goodmoments/iStock

I was confident that we had closed the book on Europe's need to work more and vacation less in "An Open Letter to Europe." The only strong point that I missed (and that blogger Christine Cantera pointed out in the comments) is the need for our friends on the other side of the Atlantic to also cool it with the three-hour lunches so that some business can be conducted while the sun is still shining. I was ready to move on to more pressing travel matters, like the threat of Ryanair flights touching down on U.S. soil and why Egyptair kept serving me three rolls with every meal on a recent trip. Now, however, comes news that a court has ruled that Europeans who get sick on vacation are entitled to go on another holiday...that their employer must allow them to take. Europe, you're killing me.

According to The New York Times, the Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled that it does not matter when you got sick, only that you would have been unfit for work. Sick time is sick time and vacation time is vacation time, and never the two shall meet. In its ruling, the court noted, "[t]he 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."

Spain's unemployment rate is near 25%. Greece's economy is hanging on by a (German) thread. And what are European labor unions worried about? Whether a case of the sniffles entitles you to a do-over on a three-week holiday. Priorities, people!

The ruling affects all 27 European Union countries.

“The point at which the temporary incapacity arose is irrelevant,” the court declared. The relevance of an entire continent's incapacity might soon be realized.

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