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HMRC internal manual

Statutory Payments Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Continuous employment: breaks in employment

Some breaks in contracts can count as part of a continuing period of employment.

Sickness or injury

A period of employment, interrupted by absences due to sickness or injury, can only be considered as part of continuous employment if the break in the contract is for 26 weeks or less.

Pregnancy or adoption, paternity or parental leave

All weeks between the date the employee

  • was first absent from work due to pregnancy or they were on maternity, adoption, paternity or paternal leave, and
  • returned to work for the same employer (or for their successor or an associated employer)

count towards the period of continuous employment.

Temporary breaks in employment

A temporary break in employment counts towards continuous employment if the employer was unable to offer the employee work and the employee returned to work immediately when work was again available.

Period of unpaid Leave

Where an employee takes unpaid leave from an employer and returns to work for the same employer the period will count towards continuous employment providing the contract of employment continued throughout the whole period.

An example of this would be where a woman takes a career break or sabbatical.

Public holidays

If a woman worked for the same employer during the weeks before and after the week containing:

  • the Christmas and Boxing Day holidays
  • officially substituted days of public holiday, or
  • holidays established by local custom

the week containing the public holiday should be regarded as a week of employment.