Workers’ Vacation Pay Can Be Inherited, EU Magistrate Says

(CN) – A European Court of Justice magistrate on Tuesday urged his colleagues to overturn a German law that bars heirs from demanding their loved one’s unused vacation time in cash.

Advocate General Yves Bot’s advisory opinion for the EU high court stems from a pair of disputes being considered by German courts. In both, widows sued their deceased husbands’ employers demanding cash for unused vacation time.

European law and its constitution mandate at least four weeks of vacation annually for all workers. The question the German courts must decide is whether vacation time becomes part of a worker’s estate in death.

Bot noted the Luxembourg-based high court has already decided that the death of a worker does not extinguish the obligation to pay out unused vacation time. Accordingly, he said, German law barring unused leave from becoming part of the dead worker’s estate does not mesh with EU law.

“Since the court has held, first, that entitlement to annual leave and entitlement to a payment on that account constitute two aspects of a single right, secondly, that the allowance in lieu of outstanding paid annual leave is intended to compensate for the fact that the worker cannot actually enjoy his right to paid annual leave and is essential to ensure the effectiveness of that right and, thirdly, that, accordingly, entitlement to paid annual leave is not lost because of the worker’s death, it must be inferred that the heirs of that worker must be able to claim an allowance in lieu of the paid annual leave accrued by that worker,” Bot wrote.

“A contrary solution would have the effect of retroactively depriving the deceased worker of his entitlement to paid annual leave, on the basis of ‘an unintended occurrence, beyond the control of both the worker and the employer.’”

Bot’s opinion is not binding on the European Court of Justice, which has begun its own deliberations in the case.

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