Are employers required to provide pay or time off in lieu of bank holidays that coincide with maternity leave?

Employees have no automatic right to take paid leave in lieu of bank holidays that fall during their maternity leave, although such entitlement may exist as a result of their contractual terms.

Under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1833) all employees are now entitled to 5.6 weeks' statutory paid annual leave. Where bank holidays are included in the statutory minimum, following Merino Gómez v Continental Industrias del Caucho SA [2004] IRLR 407 ECJ, in which the European Court of Justice ruled that an employer cannot insist that a woman take her statutory annual leave at the same time as her maternity leave, it seems likely that an employee will have to be permitted to take paid days off in lieu of any bank holidays that fall within her maternity leave.

Employers that allow employees who are sick on a bank holiday to take a day off in lieu should also allow women on maternity leave to do the same, as it would arguably be discriminatory not to.