Can I take holiday leave at the start of maternity leave? Ask the expert

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?

Young pregnant woman on laptop at home


So you want to find out about taking holiday as part of maternity leave?

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.

Taking holiday as part of maternity leave – before or after maternity leave starts or ends

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.

Good luck!

Whilst every care has been taken in compiling this answer, cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice.

More maternity leave reading:

Comments [44]

  • Elle says:

    My work are trying to change my leave entitlement..before I went on maternity leave last year I was full time (28 days leave) it was agreed I would take my holiday at the end of my maternity leave. I have requested to come back part time and they’re saying this will change the holiday I’ve already accrued whilst on maternity leave as a full time member so I will lose days of already accrued leave. Is this right? ( I am having to carry over leave as my holiday/return to work will be around the start of the new financial year)

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, It would depend on when you negotiated to go part time. Your employer should have sent you a confirmation of the part-time agreement which would represent a permanent change to your terms and conditions. Up until that point you would continue to accrue holiday based on your full-time hours.

  • Cheryl Hensby says:

    Hi I work 3 days a week. If I have my baby on my day off after doing 3 days that week will my mat leave start the next week?

  • Sarah says:

    Hi, I work in a school all year round but have to take my holidays during school holidays. Because of this, they initially told me i would be paid my annual leave in a lump sum. Is this still illegal?
    I put in a request with tbe head teacher to take it at the end if my leave instead which was approved.

    I was also only taking 36 weeks maternity but have decided to change it to longer. I’m well over the 8 weeks notice, do i still need to be given my annual leave after this or can they say no if i change it? They don’t allow holiday to be carried over and contracts are changing anyway meaning next year we are all term time only anyway.


    • Mandy Garner says:

      I am unclear what you mean about being paid your annual leave in a lump sum. Is this annual leave accrued while on maternity leave? And have you now got them to agree to let you add the leave onto the end of your maternity leave? Did you agree a return to work date with your employer? Legally, you should give eight weeks’ notice of any change to the end date of your maternity leave. Adding holiday onto the end does not change the end date of your maternity leave.

  • anonymous says:

    Can I have holiday leave at the start of my maternity? The gov website says MAT will start the day I give birth, but I have 2 weeks holiday.
    So can MAT payments be delayed till after my holiday weeks?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Your maternity leave must start after you have given birth so you would have to ask to add holiday to the end of your leave. The first two weeks of maternity leave are compulsory.

      • Amy says:

        You can take annual leave before you maternity leave starts.
        Yes you are legally obliged to have 2 weeks off after the baby arrives.

  • Joan says:

    I recently joined the company on 7th March 2017.
    And in an event I got pregnant. I gave birth on 8th February 2019 meaning am left with 4weeks to clock 2years in an organisation. Whilst on Annual leave I was serving I gave birth.
    So does it mean o have to go on unpaid martenity leave.

  • Jeena says:

    Hi, I am mother of two and I am pregnant with my third child my due date is in September. I want to take unpaid parental leave as soon as possible. How early I can apply for unpaid maternity leave?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Usually, the earliest you can start your leave is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. Leave will also start: the day after the birth if the baby is early. automatically if you’re off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before the week.

  • Love says:

    I need help, am stoping working on the 20th of November. Taking my holiday on the 3rd of December while my maternity allowance starts on the 16 of December. Will taking my holiday affect my maternity allowance because my company pays normally at the end of the month. While my maternity allowance is the government that his paying because am not entitled through my company.

  • Rebecca says:

    I am due on the 9th March. My annual leave runs until the end of March. I plan to work until my due date. Can I use annual leave rather than maternity leave for the first two weeks after I’ve given birth or does my maternity leave have to be used straight away?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi Rebecca,
      Maternity leave is compulsory for the two weeks after the birth of a child so women can recover so I’m afraid you could not use annual leave. You could ask your employer to tack annual leave onto the end of your maternity leave, however.

  • Luminita says:

    I’m in maternity leave from 14 August to 13 of May and I would like to extend it to maximum (1 year). My question is ..can I book my remaining holiday ( also the Bank Holidays) at the end of the SMP and then to carry on my unpaid maternity leave ?
    Thank you

    • Mandy Garner says:

      You can negotiate with your employer to add holiday onto the end of your maternity leave, but you would not be able to break off from maternity leave midway through it and return to it. Once you have come off maternity leave that is final.

  • Annabelle says:

    Hi I go on maternity leave in April, my holiday for my work goes from January to December, I know I am entitled to holiday before I go on maternity but not sure how much? I would like to know the facts before I question my boss as don’t want to be taken for granted. And she hasn’t brought it up either and I only have 2 months left starting to panick

    • Mandy Garner says:

      You would be entitled to any leave accrued up until that point, but as you will continue to accrue holiday during your maternity leave you could ask to take some of that either before or after your maternity leave to ensure you don’t lose it. Your employer could refuse to let you take it before, eg if there is a good business reason, but they would still owe you all the accrued leave at the end of your maternity leave.

  • Df says:

    Hi im a zero contract hour before i came home they gave me ghe rest of the holidays i was entitled and i was happy with that but then they asked me whrn the baby is due so they can start the maternity leave and i give them the date but i wanted the maternity leave to start when the baby is born not on the date they give you on the hospital now im overdue 3 days so i called them and said that i wanted to wait until the baby comes so i can start the maternity leave but they said i cant choose whem the maternity leave starts

  • michaela says:

    Hi, I went on my maternity in Feb and had my baby in march. I’m due to go back in November. But might not be able to go back as I have no one to look after my son. Will I be able to take all my annual leave at the end?

  • stacy rumbold says:

    I am due to take my maternity leave on the 9th of May and I have also put in my annual leave in at the same time will I get paid for my maternity and my annual leave at the same time?

  • Caroline says:

    Hi I have just come back to work after my maternity leave and holiday leave that I acured I just would like to know if my holiday pay should be the same as my maternity pay or should I have received full holiday pay?

  • Anon says:

    I am pregnant and due mid June. My company is saying that my stat maternity leave starts the day I give birth and that if I want any time over before, it must be taken as holiday? I thought I could start my leave anytime I wanted within the 11 weeks before my due date? I have asked them about this twice and had the same response but I am sure this is wrong.

  • emma says:

    Hi. My company run holiday year from April to April, my baby is due late June 2016 so will be off until April 2017,next year. I have requested to take all my holiday days for this holiday period before I start my maternity leave, as it will be past the cut off point when I return. We have no contracts or HR department and would like to know my rights! Thank you.

  • Toni says:


    I have already started my maternity leave (December 11th) it was the earliest I could take it (legally) and made the decision to do so due to exhaustion.

    Does this mean my pay should have been paid for example – 2 weeks at full pay and 2 weeks at 90%? if so this means my 90% of monthly earnings has kicked in (for 6 weeks and then SMP would kick in naturally) However, I have also been granted my 28 days of holiday (due to start from 1st Jan to 1st of Feb)
    (my little girl is due at the end of feb) My question is financially will I receive my last 4 weeks of 90% maternity work pay and my holiday pay or will the last remaining 4 weeks be paid at a later date.. I hope I am making sense.

    • Lennys says:

      Hi Toni! I am the same boat as you were and ai need help . What was the outcome of your situation? M ybqby is due late February and im thiinking about starting my leave 11 weeks before dude date. How will my pay be? I am so nervous. Please hep

      • Mandy Garner says:

        Do you mean you want to start maternity leave then or take annual leave before your maternity leave? If the latter, you need to negotiate this with your employer as the advice says.

  • Nicole says:

    I am due to start maternity leave on the 20th January and usually I would be entitled to 27 days annual leave. As I haven’t been to well I was wondering if it’s possible to take leave before my maternity leave us due to start? If not, as I will not be returning back to work until January the following year. Will I loose my annual leave for the 2016 period?

  • Monica says:

    I work for the NHS and have started my maternity leave. When I return my pay scale is reduced from what I started when taking maternity leave. I was wondering for the annual leave accrued during my maternity leave I be payed based on my previous or new pay scale?

  • Clare says:


    I am nearing the end of a one year, fixed term contract (01/09/14-31/08/2015) in a primary school. The last day of term is 17th July and my baby is due on the 20th of August.

    Now…what I am really confused about (and can’t seem to find the definite answer to) is whether I:

    a) have to start my maternity from the last day worked (17th July) and miss out on the full summer pay for 6 weeks (on the 90% pay SMP)

    b) am able to start my maternity from my due date


  • Anonymous says:

    I have started maternity leave 1st may 2014 and due back may 2015.
    Our holiday runs as per calendar year and I have taken accumulated holidays before the start of my maternity.
    Unfortunately I did not discuss holiday as I understood it can be taken afterwards.
    I do not plan to go back to work and will be informing my employer shortly.
    Now there is 15 days outstanding for 2014 and general company policy doesn't allow to carry over holidays to next year. Does this apply to maternity or do I have right to claim it at the end of my maternity leave

    Many thanks

    Editor: You can carry the leave over if you are on maternity leave, but it is a good idea to let your employer know as soon as possible – see

  • Anonymous says:

    Hello, I am due to start my maternity in august. The holidays run from 1st April to 31st March. If I don't take the holidays before maternity, and I come back to work in the next financial year in may, will I lose this year's holiday entitlement? Also I am entitled to 25 days holiday + all bank holidays, can I have all my holiday entitlement (25days + number of bank holidays)before my maternity?

    Editor: see You can carry forward up to 4 weeks' of annual leave. Your employer can refuse annual leave where it coincides with a  busy time of year or a lot of other employees are taking leave at the same time, but they should not refuse to allow you to take annual leave because you have been absent on maternity leave, as that may be sex discrimination.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hello, I am due to start my maternity mid May and would like to use 7 days holiday before. Our holiday runs from April to April and we get given an allowance. However now I'm pregnant my boss will only let me take what I have accrued between April and May. Can they do this? All the other employees do not have to accrue they just get given there allowance?

    Editor: You rightly say that you continue to accrue holiday on maternity leave. This is generally taken before or after maternity leave and has to be agreed with your employer. They must allow you to take it at some time, but they can turn down a request to take it at a particular time for business reasons. So, if you cannot take it before your maternity leave you would have to add it on to the end of your leave. If you resign during maternity leave, you should expect to get all accrued holiday up to the point of resignation paid in your final payment.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hello,I ask my HR officer about my untaken holiday,if is possible take this before i start maternity leave.She tell me this:Accrued holidays can only be paid when your employment ends. To pay you these hours we would need to receive written confirmation that you are ending your contact with our Company.

    Editor: It is right that accrued holidays are normally only paid on handing in your notice. If you have accrued holiday and are still employed you should be able to take this before or after your maternity leave. They are confusing holiday pay and actual holiday.

  • Anonymous says:

    I work for local authority. I work for 9 month full time on one contract and have just been offered a years new contract to start next month. I am 4 month pregnant an I am due july so my maternity will run july to april approx just as my contract ends. Can I take all my holiday for the year before I go on leave as if my contract is not renewed I may not be returning?

    Editor: You would have to negotiate with your employer about accrued holiday. You can usually either take it before or after your leave, but they may refuse a request to let you have it before. If your contract is not renewed, you will get any accrued leave that you have not taken in your pay packet.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi. I received the letter from my employer where it said that I can take 10 days holidays prior to my maternity leave and another 14 days can be carried forward to next year or paid out at the end of this year. But if Im not sure will I came back after my maternity leave, how they will add that days to the next year then? Thanks

    Editor: If you do not go back, you will receive payment for any holiday accrued during maternity leave when you leave.

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm a teacher and my baby is due in the Summer holidays (Aug). Can I start my maternity leave from the beginning of September? Otherwise I won't get my holiday time off paid.

    Editor: I'm afraid that in the first two weeks after the birth of your child maternity leave is compulsory. However, you should get maternity pay as soon as you start maternity leave.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi.I was just wondering, Can I take all my holiday before my maternity leave its starts in April. As I'm doing night shift i have 24 holiday days. When I ask my manager they said I could take just 8 days, because im leaving on April.

    Editor: You continue to accrue annual leave in the normal way during maternity leave. The normal thing – and least disruptive for employers – is to add this to the beginning or end of your maternity leave, but employers can turn down a request for annual leave if, for instance, there is a business reason not to give it at a particular time. However, they must ensure it is taken so it is down to you to negotiate.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi my holidays start in jan I was wondering do I get my entitled days of 28 r do I get what I'm due to May as this is when my maternity leave starts

    Editor: While you are on maternity leave you continue to accrue annual leave in the usual way. Employers usually allow people to take this before or after the leave ie all the leave they will accrue so it is up to you to negotiate with them over whether you take it before or after your mat leave.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hello I was jus wondering if I take all my holiday b4 my marternity leave and don't go back to work will I have to pay back my holiday ??? Thank you Amy

    Editor: As long as you only take leave that you will have accrued during maternity leave before you resign, you will not have to pay it back.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi, does the same apply to me. I am on a zero hour contract, have worked for the company for nearly 4 years and always had continuos work averaging at 40 hours per week, I am entitled to 28 days holiday paid a year from January to December and must be taken before the 31st of December as stated in my contract. My company has said that because I have been in my position for nearly 4 years that I don't have to accrue holiday and I am down to take my maternity leave at the beginning of June. Does this mean that I am only entitled to only half of my holiday, or can I take the full 28 days before I start my maternity.

    Editor: You need to negotiate this with your employer, but normally people either add the annual leave they accrue on maternity leave to the beginning of end of their maternity leave.

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