Discontinuous shared parental leave: your questions answered

Fathers – and mothers – will be able to take discontinuous shared parental leave from 2015.
Fathers – and mothers – will be able to take discontinuous shared parental leave from 2015

Shared parental leave does not have to be taken in one consecutive block; employees can stop and start their leave. We continue our series on the new right by answering employers’ questions about discontinuous shared parental leave.

What is discontinuous shared parental leave?

An employee who is eligible for shared parental leave can request to take discontinuous periods of leave. He or she can take a period of shared parental leave, return to work, then take a further period of shared parental leave.

When an employee gives the employer notice of a period of leave, he or she can request either a single block or discontinuous periods of leave.

Shared parental leave webinars

The questions featured here were raised by the audience in Personnel Today’s first shared parental leave webinar this summer.

A second webinar on the topic, which includes a section on discontinuous shared parental leave, takes place on 4 November 2014 – register here to reserve your place.

If the employee requests discontinuous shared parental leave, the employer can refuse the request and require the employee to withdraw the request or take the leave in a continuous block. However, if an employee requests a continuous period of leave, the employer must agree to it.

Employers should note that employees can submit up to three separate leave notices. More information on what constitutes discontinuous shared parental leave is available here.

Can employers refuse all requests for discontinuous shared parental leave?

If an employee requests periods of discontinuous shared parental leave, the employer can refuse the request and require the employee to withdraw the request or take the leave in a continuous block.

An employer may decide to refuse all requests for discontinuous shared parental leave as a matter of policy, to reduce disruption to the business. If an employee wanted to challenge this, he or she may claim that such a policy is discriminatory, in which case the employee would have to show that the policy placed a certain group at a disadvantage when compared with other employees.

However, as an employee can submit up to three separate leave notices, a policy of refusing all requests for discontinuous leave may not be effective in preventing disruption. Further information on having a policy of refusing all requests for discontinuous periods of shared parental leave is available here.

If an employee works in a school, can he or she take periods of shared parental leave during term time and “return to work” during school holidays?

As long as an employee meets the eligibility requirements and gives his or her employer the correct notice, he or she can choose when to take his or her shared parental leave. Find out further information on this scenario.

Can employee reduce their hours over a period, for example by working two days a week and taking shared parental leave three days a week?

No, shared parental leave must be taken in blocks of at least one week at a time. Therefore, an employee could not take shared parental leave in blocks of one or two days to reduce his or her working hours.

However, each parent can agree with their employer to use up to 20 “shared-parental-leave-in-touch” (SPLIT) days to carry out work without bringing a period of shared parental leave to an end. Find out more about SPLIT days here.

4 Responses to Discontinuous shared parental leave: your questions answered

  1. Ian Wilder 29 Oct 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    As I understand the arrangements – as set out in ACAS guidance, the distinction between continuous and discontinuous periods of leave is not as simple as might be assumed from the above guidance. An eligible employee can make up to 3 separate applications for periods of continuous leave during the 50 weeks following the birth or placing for adoption so that provided the correct notice is given, there could still be considerable potential disruption. I’d be pleased if anyone suggests my interpretation of the ACAS guidance is wrong!

  2. Margaret 29 Oct 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    My understanding is that they can either ask for a single period of leave (continuous leave) and that this cannot be refused or up to 3 occasions of discontinuous leave each of which can be refused. The discontinuous leave request can then be withdrawn but if it is not agreed and is not withdrawn that triggers a period of continuous leave.

    It still makes for lots of potential work IF parents decide it makes sense to share the leave and makes it even more important that managers and HR talk to the employee about leave in advance of the birth so they can plan for any absences. I think the numbers taking up SPL will be relatively small and will be very dependant on the comparative earning of the couple.

  3. Ian Wilder 30 Oct 2014 at 11:54 am #

    Thank you Margaret. However, the ACAS guidance – in the form of a sample shared parental leave policy – states, in the section on Continuous leave notifications, that “an employee has the right to take a continuous block of leave notified in a single notification…” but also states that “an employee may submit up to three separate notifications for continuous periods of leave”. I remain confused!

  4. Amanda 31 Oct 2014 at 10:39 am #

    It seems employees could either submit one request for three separate periods of leave, which the employer could refuse, or could submit three separate requests for continuous leave, which could not be refused. For example, one request for 3 weeks leave in January, again in March and then again May could be refused. However (given the correct notice), a request for 3 weeks leave in January would have to be agreed. If a later request (again with the correct notice) for 3 weeks leave in March was made, that would have to be agreed. The same for another request later in the year for a further 3 weeks in May.