Gomez v Continental Industrias del Caucho SA, ECJ C-342/01

Maternity leave is no holiday: This European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision deals with the interaction between a woman’s right to maternity leave and the right to paid annual leave, and what should happen if maternity leave coincides with an employer’s annual shutdown.

Ms Gomez, a factory worker, took maternity leave from May to the end of August 2001.

Her employer, via a collective agreement, had decided on two holiday periods during July and August 2001, when all workers were required to take at least 15 days’ annual leave. A limited number of workers were allowed to take holiday in September.

This annual shutdown, which formed part of the workers’ statutory holiday entitlement, overlapped with Gomez’s maternity leave. Gomez was refused permission by her employer to take her holiday at the end of her maternity leave in September and so she brought a claim in the Spanish courts, which was ultimately referred to the ECJ for consideration.

The ECJ ruled that a woman should be entitled to take annual leave at a time other than during the period of her maternity leave. Allowing the two periods to overlap would entail one of them being lost, in this case the annual holiday.

To comply with EU rules guaranteeing the principle of equal treatment and non-discrimination and the entitlement to annual leave, the employer’s collective agreement should have made provision for the special situation of pregnant employees by safeguarding their dual entitlement to maternity leave and annual leave.

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