An employee working as a legal secretary was refused parental leave as her employer claimed that it was not reasonably practicable to keep the employee’s position open as the position was key to his firm.  The employer also refused to sign the employee’s application for paid parental leave and she was thus unable to receive her government funded entitlement.

The Employment Relations Authority upheld the employee’s personal grievance claim for unjustified disadvantage.

Under the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 there is a presumption that an employee’s position can be kept open while they are on parental leave, unless a temporary replacement is not reasonably practicable due to the employee holding a key position.

The ERA held that the employee’s position did not meet the high threshold for establishing that her position was key to the employer’s business as her duties could be, and were performed by other staff. The ERA noted that her position could thus be kept open.

The ERA held that the employer’s incorrect decision to deny the employee parental leave disadvantaged the employee and deprived her of a statutory right.

The ERA also found that the employee was disadvantaged in the workplace by the employer’s handling of her application for paid parental leave. 

The ERA held that the employee was entitled to return to her previous position, and ordered the employer to pay the employee $10,000 in compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.