Can an Employer Refuse Unpaid Parental Leave?

If you’re an employer supervising a number of employees in your organization, you need to be fully aware of your legal obligations and the rights of your employees.

One question you might have in mind is can an employer refuse unpaid parental leave?

To answer the question briefly, you can’t refuse such a request since all employees are entitled to unpaid parental leaves by law.

For a more detailed answer, continue reading this guide in which we shed light on unpaid parental leave and related subjects.

With this information, you can avoid getting into legal trouble caused by a lack of knowledge on such matters.

We hope you enjoy reading this guide and find it informative!  

What Is Unpaid Parental Leave?

Parental leave refers to some time taken off from work by employees to take care of their children.

In unpaid parental leaves, the employees retain their job but do not receive wages during the leave period.

Unpaid parental leave can be taken by both mothers and fathers to care for their children for both medical and non-medical reasons.

Parents may also use this time to spend more time with their children, make new schooling or childcare arrangements, or even simply look after them during holiday breaks.

The number of weeks of unpaid parental leave an employee can take depends on the laws and regulations of the country they’re working in.

Usually, this is between 12 and 18 weeks for most countries.

What Are The Eligibility Criteria For Unpaid Parental Leave

While unpaid parental leave is granted to employees quite easily in most organizations, you must fulfill the eligibility criteria to take it.

In most cases, you must have worked for the employer for the past 6 to 12 months before requesting leave. 

Moreover, you need to have parental responsibility for the care of the child being born or adopted.

If you already have a child and intend to care for them, you need to be named on their birth or adoption certificate in order to take the leave.

Laws for Unpaid Parental Leave

As mentioned earlier, laws and regulations in most countries grant employees unpaid parental leave of around 12 to 18 weeks.

In the United States, the US Department of Labor (DOL) states that employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave per year, according to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

During this period, the employees will retain their job along with all health benefits provided to them.

In Australia, all employees are entitled to a maximum of 12 months of unpaid parental leave. An additional 12 months can also be granted if requested. 

The United Kingdom allows employees to take up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave for each child until they reach 18 years of age.

Check out this guide to find out more about parental leave laws in the UK.

Can an Employer Refuse Unpaid Parental Leave?

So, can parental leave be refused? If you are an employer, you cannot refuse an employee’s request for unpaid parental leave.

According to the law, all employees are entitled to unpaid parental leave provided they are fully eligible. 

While unpaid parental leave can’t be refused, employers can refuse a leave extension based on a number of reasonable business grounds.

These include an unfavorable impact on the organization’s productivity, inability to find a replacement, and failure to distribute work responsibilities among existing employees.

When Can Employers Postpone Unpaid Parental Leaves?

As mentioned earlier, employers cannot refuse unpaid parental leave requests. However, the leave can be postponed in certain situations.

If you want to postpone an employee’s parental leave request, you’ll need their agreement and consent.

An employee might agree to take their leave later if the circumstances requiring their parental duties and attention aren’t that urgent. 

However, you can’t postpone their request if the leave is to be taken immediately after a child’s birth or adoption.

In addition, postponing a request that may disqualify an employee from their leave entitlement (such as delaying a request beyond the child’s 18th birthday in the UK), is also something you cannot do.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you can only postpone an employee’s unpaid parental leave request if the organization’s processes would be critically disrupted by their absence during that period.

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Final Thoughts

So, can an employer refuse unpaid parental leave? No, employers cannot refuse unpaid parental leave requests.

According to the law, all employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks (US) of unpaid parental leave if they fulfill the eligibility criteria and can prove their entitlement.

An employer can, however, postpone the request with the consent of the employee if the functioning or the finances of the organization would be seriously impacted by their absence during that period.

If you’re an employer who’s creating parental leave policies for your organization, we recommend seeking legal advice and assistance for that purpose.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much unpaid parental leave is an employee entitled to?

According to parental leave laws in most countries, employees are entitled to unpaid parental leave of 12 to 18 weeks.

Employees in the US can request a maximum of 12 weeks of parental leave, according to the FMLA.

What process should an employee follow to request parental leave?

If an employee is intending to take parental leave, they must provide you notice well before the leave period starts.

The duration of the notice period required can depend on the regulations of the country and organization you’re in. It can vary from 7 to 21 days in most cases.

In addition to that, the employee also needs to confirm the starting and ending dates of the leave period.

At this point, you can rightfully ask them for proof of their parental leave entitlement. In some cases, an adoption or birth certificate is needed.

Can parental leaves be extended?

Employees can request an additional leave period if the need arises. Once they put forth this request, it can be accepted or rejected by the employer.

An employer might reject the request if they feel the prolonged absence of the employee will have an adverse effect on the functioning of the organization.

Can my employer refuse me parental leave?

No, your employer cannot refuse your request for parental leave if you are fully eligible for it.

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