Parental Leave no Bar to Redundancy

Stanley v Service to Youth Council Incorporated [2014] FCA 643 (20 June 2014)

Poppy v Service to Youth Council Incorporated [2014] FCA 656 (20 June 2014)

When two employees on parental leave were made redundant they both believed the truth of the matter was they were dismissed because they were on parental leave. But the federal court has disagreed and dismissed the claims, finding that genuine redundancies had occurred.

The employees went on leave at different times and had different roles within their organisation, however a common theme soon emerged after they proceeded on leave: the remaining employees easily absorbed their duties and the employer realised that the absent employees were not needed. At the same time there were organisational changes which affected the workload to a degree, but the main issue was the staffing was clearly ‘overweight’.

The federal court did find minor fault with the employer (for which a fine was levied) as a result of a failure to respond promptly to the employees’ requests for information and assistance about possible alternative positions.

This case is a good example of where an employee, perhaps understandably, jumps to a conclusion about the motives of their employer, and believes the worst. However the court in this case found no evidence whatsoever that the employer acted because of the parental leave entitlements of the two employees.

Of particular interest was the court’s view that these two employees were no different to any other employee who happened to be on some other form of long leave being subject to redundancy as well. In other words, being on parental leave does not cocoon an employee from the normal ebb and flow of a business.