Scope of Protection against dismissal for having sought to take parental leave

You may be aware that, although normal unfair dismissal has a 2 year qualifying service requirement, there are many claims for “automatic unfair dismissal” where dismissal on certain grounds does not require 2 years length of service.  

In Hillton Foods Solutions Ltd v Wright the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) upheld a claim not to strike out a claim for automatic unfair dismissal for reason connected to having sought to take unpaid parental leave despite the fact that the Claimant never formally applied to take such leave under the Regulations.  

The EAT ruled there was no absolute requirement that an employee must give formal notice to take parental leave before it could be said that he or she had “sought” to take parental leave.   The question was always one for an Employment Tribunal (which was best placed to determine following a consideration of all the relevant facts),  as to whether a state had been reached at which it could be said that the employee had sought to take parental leave.

The case confirms the width of protection for an employee in such circumstances and will be applicable to where employees “sought” other types of protected leave.  Employers should always be aware that regardless of length of service where employees are seeking to take certain statutory rights, detrimental treatment or dismissal for a reason connected with such rights can land an employer in the Employment Tribunal.