Key facts of the case
Request for a preliminary ruling from the Bundesarbeitsgericht.
Reference for a preliminary ruling — Social policy — Organisation of working time — Directive 2003/88/EC — Article 7 — Right to paid annual leave — National legislation providing for the loss of annual leave not taken and of the allowance in lieu thereof where an application for leave has not been made by the worker prior to the termination of the employment relationship — Directive 2003/88/EC — Article 7 — Obligation to interpret national law in conformity with EU law — Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union — Article 31(2) — Whether it may be relied upon in a dispute between individuals.
Outcome of the case:
On those grounds, the Court (Grand Chamber) hereby rules:
- Article 7 of Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 November 2003 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time and of Article 31(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union must be interpreted as precluding national legislation such as that at issue in the main proceedings, under which, in the event that the worker did not ask to exercise his right to paid annual leave during the reference period concerned, that worker loses, at the end of that period — automatically and without prior verification of whether the employer had in fact enabled him to exercise that right, in particular through the provision of sufficient information — the days of paid annual leave acquired under those provisions in respect of that period, and, accordingly, his right to an allowance in lieu of paid annual leave not taken in the event that the employment relationship is terminated. It is, in that regard, for the referring court to determine, taking into consideration the whole body of domestic law and applying the interpretative methods recognised by it, whether it can arrive at an interpretation of that right capable of ensuring the full effectiveness of EU law.
- In the event that it is impossible to interpret national legislation such as that at issue in the main proceedings in a manner consistent with Article 7 of Directive 2003/88 and Article 31(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, it follows from the latter provision that a national court hearing a dispute between a worker and his former employer who is a private individual must disapply the national legislation and ensure that, should the employer not be able to show that it has exercised all due diligence in enabling the worker actually to take the paid annual leave to which he is entitled under EU law, the worker cannot be deprived of his acquired rights to that paid annual leave or, correspondingly, and in the event of the termination of the employment relationship, to the allowance in lieu of leave not taken which must be paid, in that case, directly by the employer concerned.