Employment Update: Paternity Leave

17 March 2008

Employees may be fairly dismissed while on leave for family reasons. To be automatically unfair, the dismissal must be caused by the taking of such leave.

In Atkins v Coyle Personnel plc the employee was on one week’s paid paternity leave. He had agreed to remain contactable by phone and email. However, when his line manager tried to contact him about some upcoming work where he stood to gain commission (thinking that he was doing him a favour), the employee (who had only had 3 hours sleep) got aggressive on the phone and was fired on the spot for misconduct.

He argued that this was automatically unfair under s.99 Employment Rights Act - the principal reason for dismissal related to his taking paternity leave - and by virtue of Reg. 29 Paternity and Adoption Leave Regulations 2002 - the reason for dismissal was 'connected with' the fact that he took paternity leave.

The Tribunal and the EAT have now both disagreed.

It is not enough that the dismissal happened while he was on paternity leave. The fact that someone is on leave for family reasons does not make them immune from fair dismissal altogether.

Point to note:

  • For a dismissal to be automatically unfair as being 'connected with' the taking of family leave there must be a causal connection between the taking of the leave and the dismissal. In this case the employee was sacked because he was abusive on the phone and not because he was on paternity leave and that was the reason why his claim of automatic unfair dismissal failed.

Authors