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My baby is due in April and our leave year goes from 1st April – 31st March each year. I understand I will accrue my full annual leave entitlement during my maternity leave (33 days). I am planning to start maternity leave in March and understand why I cannot bring any leave forward from the next year’s leave entitlement to this year to take before I start maternity leave (as I haven’t accrued it yet). My return date from maternity leave will therefore be the following March, but that only leaves me with 19 working days to take my 33 days leave allocation I will have accrued whilst being on maternity leave. I am asking to carry over the remaining 14 days and take them immediately in the next leave year. Do I have a right/are there rules around carry over of annual leave which cannot be taken within the accrual year due to maternity leave? The options I’ve been given by my employer at the moment are: Lose the leave; be paid the leave; and come back nearly a month early from maternity leave to take then annual leave before the end of the leave year. None of these seem fair to me. It is not helped by a change in organisation which will take effect from the start of next financial year.
First of all, congratulations on the forthcoming addition to your family. You are right, with maternity leave now at a maximum of 52 weeks, it is highly likely it will cross one holiday year into another. Dealing with when to take holiday from one holiday year to the next is often the source of much confusion for employers. However, there is no need for it to be complicated; the simple answer is to take the holidays accrued in the first holiday year before the maternity leave commences and those holidays accrued in the second holiday year at the end.
As you have quite rightly stated that your entitlement will take you into a second holiday year, the options your employer has made available to you are incorrect.
During your pregnancy and up until the end of your maternity leave is known as a Protected Period (s18(6) EqA 2010) where you are protected from unfavourable treatment. Forcing you to cut short your maternity leave in order to take annual leave certainly amounts to unfavourable treatment. Similarly, so would losing the leave or being paid rather than being allowed to take the leave.
Furthermore, annual leave cannot be taken whilst in a period of maternity leave and the Court of Justice of the European Union has confirmed that a worker is entitled to take her annual leave at a time other than during her maternity leave. Your employers are therefore advised to follow the guidance of the Court and allow you to carry your leave over.
In the event that your employer fails to allow this, you could have grounds for discrimination so I advise a letter in the first instance in the form of a grievance asking your employer to reconsider their position. Depending on the outcome of this, you may need to seek advice on how to progress it further in order to get the outcome that you are legally entitled to.