I am pregnant and have decided to start my maternity leave in May. When I first told my work I was pregnant I was told I could save up all my holiday entitlement for the year and use this at the beginning. So I would leave work, have all my accrued holiday first, then have 6 weeks 90% pay then go onto SMP. They put this in writing to me and are now saying that this is wrong and that I can either carry my holiday over till next year and take it at the end or get a lump sum payment at the end of December for my holiday. Can they do this as I would like to take the holiday at the beginning as they originally stated?
Legally, women on maternity leave have to be allowed to use up their accrued holiday entitlement. This can be either before or after the maternity leave period. However, the right to carry holiday over from one annual leave year to the next depends on the terms of the employment contract with the employer and not the legislation governing maternity leave. Following the Working Time Directive, employees must be allowed to take their accrued holiday and it is illegal to pay holiday as a lump sum.
So, in your case, your employer cannot pay you in lieu of the holidays, they must let you take them. There is no law on whether this has to be before or after your maternity leave. The fact that they sent you a letter stating that you could take it before your leave started strengthens your position so I would suggest that you need to go back to them and insist that you are allowed to take the leave prior to going on maternity leave, unless they can give you a strong business reason for otherwise. Point out that they cannot just pay you for the equivalent of the holiday – the fact that they have included this does indicate that they aren’t quite sure of your rights under maternity leave which again strengthens your negotiating position.
Whilst every care has been taken in compiling this answer, WorkingMums cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice.