We receive many questions about holiday entitlement from women who are pregnant or on maternity leave. We hope the below will help answer some of your questions:

Since you are able to take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave, in many cases, it is likely that it will cross from one holiday year to the next. Annual leave cannot be taken whilst you are on maternity leave, however, holiday entitlement does accrue during this period.

The law does not permit statutory leave to be carried over from one holiday year to the next and put simply this therefore means that women on maternity leave may lose some of their holiday entitlement if their accrued holidays extend into a new holiday year. This is the line some employers take, and they therefore refuse to carry over accrued holidays on this basis. However, for a woman to lose her statutory holiday entitlement in this way, simply because she is on maternity leave, is unlawful.

In practice, it is not always possible for a woman to use up their current year’s holiday entitlement before they start maternity leave. An employee must therefore be given the right to take her statutory annual leave either before she goes on maternity leave or on her return (the current statutory minimum is 28 days). If it is not possible or convenient for her to take her holidays prior to her going on maternity leave then she must also have the opportunity to carry holidays over to the next holiday year, if that is the only way she can take it.

In order to avoid any problems at a later stage, once you have told your employer that you are pregnant, it would be good practice for you to ask them to work out how much holiday you have left for the current holiday year and discuss how much you want to take before you go on maternity leave. It is usually the case that an employee will want to use up her holiday entitlement for the holiday year in which her maternity leave starts, often immediately before her maternity leave is due to start. As we have said above, it is not possible to take annual leave and maternity leave at the same time. Therefore, if you give birth early, prior to the holidays being taken or while on annual leave, that leave must stop and your maternity leave will start.

For example, Hannah is a full-time employee, working Monday – Friday, 5 days’ per week.

Her holiday year runs from 1 January – 31 December and her contract states that she gets 20 days’ holiday plus 8 public holidays each year.

Hannah discovers she is pregnant and informs her employer, she is due to have her baby on the 14 October 2016 and this is when she wants her maternity leave to start.

Hannah has already taken 20 days’ holiday in 2016 and would like to use the rest of her entitlement (8 days) before her maternity leave commences, meaning that her last working day will be 4 October 2016.

Hannah’s baby arrives early, on 1 October and her maternity leave therefore commences on that day. As she has been unable to take her remaining leave for 2016, this will be carried over to the next leave year. Hannah wishes to take 52 weeks maternity leave. Therefore, when she returns (on or around 1 October 2017) she will have 8 days’ accrued holiday from 2016 and 21 days’ accrued holiday from 2017 (from 1 January – 1 December 2017), in total 29 days’ holiday which she is able to take prior to returning to work. She will also have a further 7 days to take prior to the end of the leave year.