Holiday while on maternity leave

We receive many questions about holiday entitlement from women who are pregnant or on maternity leave. We hope the information below will help answer some of your questions. Information correct as of 1 August 2023.

Can I accrue holidays while I’m on maternity leave?

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

Can I carry over my leave from one holiday year to the next?

In theory, if accrued holidays extend into a new holiday year, the law does not permit statutory leave (the current statutory minimum for full time work is 28 days) to be carried over from one holiday year to the next. This therefore means that women on maternity leave may lose some of their entitlement. This is the line some employers take, and refuse to carry over accrued holidays on this basis. 

However, in practice, it is not always possible for a woman to use up a current year’s holiday entitlement before starting maternity leave. If it is not possible or convenient for her to take her holidays prior to 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.

What do I need to do?

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.

Usually 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 2018 and this is when she wants her maternity leave to start.

Hannah has already taken 20 days’ holiday in 2018 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 2018.

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 2018, 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 2019) she will have 8 days’ accrued holiday from 2018 and 21 days’ accrued holiday from 2019 (from 1 January – 1 December 2019), 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.

Find out more about your rights as an employee during maternity leave from Working Families.


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