Can an employer have a policy of refusing all requests for discontinuous periods of shared parental leave?

If an employee submits a period of leave notice requesting discontinuous periods of 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 leave as a matter of policy, to reduce disruption to the business. If an employee wanted to challenge this, they may claim that such a policy is discriminatory, in which case the employee would have to show that the policy placed a certain group, eg male employees, at a disadvantage compared to other employees. It is not clear that any particular protected group would be disadvantaged more than any other by being required to take leave in continuous periods, so it may be difficult for an employee to succeed with such a claim.

However, employers should note that they cannot prevent employees from taking up to three separate blocks of shared parental leave, provided that the employee submits a separate notice of each period of leave, at least eight weeks before it starts. Employers can refuse a request for discontinuous leave only if the employee requests discontinuous periods of leave in the same notice. Employees can submit up to three separate leave notices.

Therefore, a policy of refusing all requests for discontinuous leave may not be effective in preventing disruption. It may be preferable for the employer to discuss each request with the employee, with a view to reaching an agreement about the pattern of leave.