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Annual sickie ruled off-piste

Italy

Three teachers who took sick leave to go skiing have been given suspended prison sentences. The teachers - all from a middle school in Sorrento, near Naples - took to the slopes in the Dolomites, after first providing their employer with a doctor's certificate to account for their absence.

Their mistake was to repeat the experience every year for seven years, between 1991 and 1997. In the end, the school launched an inquiry which led to the prosecution of the teachers.

Passing sentence, a High Court judge said that he believed the "acute condition described in the doctor's certificates would not have been compatible with such a holiday", and "the journey would have been ill-advised because of the extreme difference in temperature". His conclusion was that none of the teachers was ill.

Getting a compliant doctor to write a certificate to have a few days off work has long been a traditional resource for some hard-pressed teachers.

But times are changing, and it is no longer chic to return to school with a sun tan after a week in bed with flu.

Another trio of teachers, from Puglia, found this out to their cost after holidaying together in the Dominican Republic.

Although a local tribunal conceded that a week by the sea was an appropriate remedy for their alleged illness, the ruling was overturned in the High Court, since "a holiday abroad on full salary while deceiving the administration is not justifiable".

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