Can I refuse a request for Parental Leave?

121 HR Solutions recently had a client query in relation to Parental Leave. The client is a small business and the request was to have 4 weeks’ Parental Leave along with 2 weeks ‘annual leave next summer in July 2024.

The client naturally was concerned about the impact this would have on their business operation and the possibility that it might encourage others to request the same amount of time off at an already difficult time to cover.  However, unfortunately an employer cannot refuse to allow employees go on parental leave.  Neither can employees suffer any detriment for having taken or requested parental leave. They are legally protected from dismissal, detrimental treatment and victimisation for taking parental leave.

Employees on parental leave continue to benefit from the terms and conditions of employment (except pay). They will continue to accrue their holiday entitlement.

During parental leave, employees remain bound by most of the contractual obligations, including the obligation of “good faith” to the employer and to confidentiality. If the contract says that the employee cannot work for another employer, this continues to be the case during parental leave and at the end of parental leave, employees have a right to return to the same job if they have taken four weeks or less of leave.

If more than four weeks is taken, they are entitled to return to the same job or if that is not reasonably practicable, to a similar job which has the same or better status terms and conditions as the old job and continuity of employment will not be affected.

Depending on the nature of the request, the employer can ask the employee to postpone the parental leave for up to six months, where the business would be particularly disrupted if the leave were taken at the time requested. In this situation, the employer was advised to grant the request – and they were relieved that they had sought advice before refusing!

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