An employee working as a receptionist resigned after her employer refused to advance her sick leave entitlement after her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

The Employment Relations Authority rejected the employee’s personal grievance claim for constructive and unjustified dismissal.

The ERA held that the employer’s conduct did not have the deliberate and dominant purpose of coercing the employee to resign. 

The ERA noted that there was no provision in the parties’ employment agreement that required the employer to advance sick leave. Instead, the only way the employee could take sick leave in advance was with the agreement of her employer.

The employer did not agree to advance her sick leave because the employee had annual leave available. The ERA noted that it is not unusual for employers to require annual leave to be exhausted before they consider any advancement of sick leave. This is especially so when employees are using their sick leave to care for others, as they risk having no sick leave available for themselves if they fall ill.

It is important to remember that while you may feel that your employer is being uncompassionate or unsympathetic, their decisions may still be lawful and one which a fair and reasonable employer could make in all of the circumstances.