The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has considered this Thursday that it is contrary to community laws for a company to deny financial compensation for the days of annual leave that a worker has not been able to enjoy when they voluntarily end their employment relationship; while warning that such a right cannot be subordinated to purely economic issues such as spending control.

The case responds to the claim of an Italian civil servant who resigned from his position of responsibility in a city council to take advantage of early retirement and requested compensation for 79 days of paid annual leave not taken.

The city council in question denied such compensation, relying on Italian legislation on public employees, but the Court dealing with the case went to Luxembourg because it had doubts about the compatibility of the rule with the European directive on working time.

In this context, the European High Court makes it clear that Community law “opposes” a national law that prohibits the payment to a worker of financial compensation for those unused vacation days.

The right of workers to paid vacations includes their eventual replacement by financial compensation and this, the European ruling warns, “cannot be subordinated to considerations of a purely economic nature” such as the containment of public spending.

However, the CJEU declares that the objective linked to the organizational needs of the public employer for the rational planning of the vacation period effectively responds to the purpose of the Directive, which is to allow workers to rest, while promoting the enjoyment of their vacation days.

For this reason, the ruling specifies, the only case in which Community legislation includes the loss of the right to be compensated for unused paid vacation is if the worker in question deliberately refrains from enjoying his or her vacation days despite the fact that the employer has encouraged you to do so by informing you of the risk of losing them after a certain period of time.