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Court ruling on Working Time Directive and annual leave

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that the Working Time Directive precludes national rules which make entitlement to paid annual leave conditional on a minimum period of 10 days’ actual work. That entitlement cannot be affected where the employee is on sick leave which has been duly granted, as a result of sickness or an accident at his place of work or elsewhere.

 

The Working Time Directive introduces an obligation for Member States to take the measures necessary to ensure that every worker is entitled to paid annual leave of at least four weeks in accordance with national legislation.

The case concerned a French woman who was involved in an accident on the journey between her home and her place of work in November 2005. Following that accident she was absent from work from 3rd November 2005 until 7th January 2007.

She brought a claim before the French courts for 22.5 days’ paid leave in respect of that period which her employer refused to grant her and, in the alternative, compensation in the region of €1970. Having been unsuccessful in her claim, Ms Dominguez brought an appeal on a point of law.

The French Court asked the Court of Justice whether the French rules, which make entitlement to paid annual leave conditional on an employee having worked a minimum of 10 days (or, up until February 2008, one month) for the same employer during the reference period (normally one year) are compatible with the directive.

In its judgment the Court replied that the directive must be interpreted as precluding a national provision which makes entitlement to paid annual leave conditional on a minimum period of 10 days’ (or one month’s) actual work during the reference period.

The Court noted that entitlement to paid annual leave must be regarded as a particularly important principle of EU social law, from which there can be no derogations and whose implementation by the national authorities must be confined within the limits expressly laid down by the directive. Although Member States may lay down conditions for the exercise and implementation of the right to paid annual leave, they are not entitled to make it subject to any preconditions whatsoever or to exclude the very existence of that right, which is expressly granted to all workers.

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