An employee (Mr X) has informed us that he intends to take an extended period of time off work to help to care for his baby when he/she is born in May. How should we respond to this request?
Eligible employees were previously entitled to take either one whole week’s or two consecutive weeks’ ordinary paternity leave (OPL) within 56 days of a child’s birth or placement for adoption and a further period of additional paternity leave (APL), of between two and 26 weeks in length, which was required to start 20 weeks, and end 12 months, after the child’s date of birth or placement for adoption.
However, new legislation has been introduced which has effectively abolished APL and created a new right which allows eligible employees to share the responsibility of caring for their child by requesting a period of shared parental leave (SPL) of up to 50 weeks, to be taken either individually or together with their partner. This new right will therefore apply to Mr X following the birth of his child in May.
Assuming that Mr X intends to take advantage of the right to take SPL, he is entitled to submit up to three separate leave requests to his employer. Upon receiving a leave request, the employer’s response will depend on whether Mr X has requested a continuous block of leave or discontinuous (periodic) blocks of leave.
If Mr X has requested a period of continuous leave (e.g. one block of leave following a period of OPL), then provided that he has satisfied the eligibility criteria and all of the relevant notification requirements set out in the new legislation, the employer cannot refuse Mr X’s request. The employer will therefore need to start thinking carefully about, amongst other things, resourcing issues, potential customer/client impact and how Mr X’s role will be covered during his absence.
However, if Mr X has requested discontinuous leave (e.g. two or more separate periods of leave in the year following his child’s birth), the employer is entitled to refuse the request and has 14 days in which to discuss the proposal with the employee and consider whether a modified version of the request can be agreed. Of course, if the request is refused, Mr X would still be entitled to use another of his remaining two leave requests to take a period of continuous leave, which the employer would be unable to refuse.
Some employers may have already seen the first SPL requests trickling in (with requests required to be made at least eight weeks before the leave is due to start). Employers will therefore need to be aware of this new, complicated area of legislation and, if they have not already done so, should: