Holidays and maternity leave: ask the expert

I am trying to establish my rights regarding carrying over holiday from one company holiday year to another whilst on Maternity Leave.  My baby is due on 04/01/2009 and I want to take a year off. Can I then carry holiday accrued that year over? My employer says no.

Women on maternity leave retain all their contractual rights as though they were still at work and this includes the right to holiday entitlement.

Legally, women on maternity leave have to be allowed to use up their holiday entitlement either before or after the maternity leave period. However, the right to carry holiday over from one leave year to the next depends on the terms of the employment contract with the employer and not the legislation governing maternity leave. So, your employer is correct here in that there is no legal right for women on maternity leave to have an exception made and insist that leave be taken after the maternity leave period if the maternity leave goes over two holiday years. In other words, women on maternity leave are subject to the same holiday rules as other employees.
I think your best bet would be to talk to your employer once more just to point out that simply due to the timing of when your baby is due you can’t take holiday leave as you had planned and that perhaps if that had been brought to your attention earlier by them it might have made you less frustrated. In terms of just being a reasonable employer, you might want to politely ask why they could not make an exception if there is no obvious adverse business impact. It may simply be that they do not wish to set a precedent ie if they make an exception for you, others in the future will expect it. Certainly it is something that HR might want to review in their policies relating to maternity leave so it is clear for other employees in the future.
Your only other option to extend your time off with your baby after the 52 weeks is finished is to take some parental leave. That is unpaid, but at least it would allow you additional time at home with your baby.
Good luck.


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