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 practice, and an employee requested 4 weeks Parental Leave to coincide with 2 weeks annual leave in July 2024. The rules surrounding parental leave are that each parent can take up to 18 weeks of parental leave in total for each of their children, until the child turns 18 and can request up to 4 weeks per child per year. 

Our client was naturally concerned about the impact this would have on their provision of service and the possibility that it could encourage others to request the same amount of time off at an already difficult time to cover. They were advised that an employer cannot refuse to let an employee go on parental leave.  Employees cannot “be punished” for having taken or have tried to take parental leave and 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 statutory holiday, with any additional leave normally applied subject to the employment contract.

During parental leave, employees remain bound by most of their contractual obligations, including the obligation of good faith to their employer; and to confidentiality. If the employment contract stipulates that employees cannot take up work with another employer, this continues to be the case during parental leave, and finally, the continuity of employment will not be affected.

Depending on the nature of the request, an employer can ask an employee to postpone the leave for up to six months – in cases where the business would be particularly disrupted if the leave were taken at the time requested.

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