Both Chris and I consulted ACAS and the upshot of its advice is that she is not entitled to claim both at the same time (you either get paid for one or for the other) but yes, her holiday entitlement does accrue while she is off on statutory maternity leave. The ACAS advisor I spoke to said that the employee in question should have planned her holiday entitlement in the year it was ‘due’ around her maternity leave.
The advisor says: “If she took her nine months leave with statutory maternity leave pay, she could have then taken another extended three months on unpaid leave – and this is where it all gets a bit blurry.
“A sensible thing for an employee to do is to cut short the (unpaid) maternity leave after the statutory paid nine months and then take the paid holiday entitlement – but it is not the employer’s job to tell staff their rights.” Like I said, Chris is a good employer and he has now paid his employee for last year’s entitlement (although technically he could have refused as she left it until this year to ask for it).
He passed on a good tip about holiday entitlement, which goes up again in April from 4.8 weeks to 5.6, so for those whose year runs from January to December there will be a few months of awkward calculations.
If you go to www.businesslink.gov.uk you will find a handy ready reckoner. “It’s only a minefield if you go into it with your eyes closed,” says Chris.