Q. One of the dispensers who works in my pharmacy is going on maternity leave in August. She has told me that she and her partner are considering taking shared parental leave in alternating blocks of one month. She wants to take the month of December off, which is the busiest period in the pharmacy. Do I have to agree to it?
As your employee will give birth after 5 April 2015, she might be eligible to participate in the shared parental leave (SPL) scheme but she will need to satisfy a number of criteria to be eligible to take this type of leave. This scheme lets parents to share up to 50 weeks’ leave between them before the child’s first birthday in a single continuous period or discontinuous periods.
You should check that the dispenser has satisfied the criteria and at the appropriate time, she serves you with a notice of entitlement and intention to take SPL and a period of leave notice.
You should seize the opportunity to have an informal discussion at the point you receive her notification of entitlement. This is a good time to discuss both of your preferences, what forms of discontinuous leave patterns could be accommodated and what you would be likely to agree to.
Once your employee has formally requested to take discontinuous periods of SPL by serving notice, you have two weeks to consider, beginning with the date the notice was given to you.
In response to a period of leave notice for discontinuous periods of SPL, you can either: consent to the periods requested, propose alternative dates, or refuse the request without proposing alternative dates. However, if no agreement is reached within that two-week period, the default position is that your employee will be entitled to take the amount of leave requested in her notice as a single block of continuous leave.
Your employee could withdraw her period of leave notice within 15 days after it is provided to you and submit another request. From an employee relations view, it is always best to try to find a workable compromise rather than refuse a request.
Becky Lawton is associate solicitor at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP.