The law around holiday entitlement and maternity leave

I finished my maternity leave in April and asked about my holiday for last year [my leave runs from April to April]. I was told I had lost my holiday entitlement. Nobody said anything before I went on maternity leave and I didn’t know I would get holiday entitlement. What can I do?

mother with her baby

After maternity leave you are generally entitled to return to the same position

At present, UK law does not allow employees to carry over annual leave they have been unable to use because of their absence on maternity leave.

Consequently, employers may justifiably insist that such leave is lost to the extent that it cannot be taken during the leave year in which it accrued.

However, there have been some cases in the European Court of Justice which make it clear that a woman on maternity leave must be able to take her annual leave either before or after her maternity leave.

Therefore, if you lose your entitlement to annual leave because you have been prevented from carrying it over to the new holiday year, because of your absence on maternity leave, you may have an argument that you have been discriminated against.

I would advise you to write a letter of grievance outlining your complaint. If your employer still refuses to allow you to carry over your holiday, you may be able to bring a claim in the employment tribunal for sex discrimination.

You should seek legal advice immediately if your grievance is not upheld – I’m more than happy for you to telephone me if you need any further advice and Lemon&Co offers assistance on a no win no fee basis.

This gives a general overview only, based on the information available at the time of writing. It cannot be relied upon in any particular case.

Specific legal advice must always be considered to include consideration as to whether the legal position contained has changed since publication.

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