An Australian court has recently ruled that an accounting firm, Willowdale Nominees Pty Ltd, did not force an HR manager’s resignation when it refused to grant her a year’s parental leave. The HR manager was experiencing a medically complicated pregnancy and had only been working with the firm for two months when she requested for the leave.
Despite initial verbal approval from the managing partner for at least six months off, the situation changed when she later requested a full year off in anticipation of her child’s post-natal surgery. Willowdale partners reminded her that she had not yet worked the minimum 12 months required to be eligible for unpaid parental leave under the National Employment Standards (NES).
The company expressed concern over approving the extended leave, citing that the HR manager role was crucial for the organization and could not be temporarily filled for the proposed 12-month period. They suggested the HR manager could resign and reapply when she no longer had carer’s responsibilities.
The HR manager, disagreeing with the company’s stance, stated that she was effectively being pushed out of her position. She filed a general protections application with the Fair Work Commission (FWC), but the company ended her employment, noting her unapproved absence.
Judge Nicholas Manousaridis, presiding over the case, did not agree that the partners’ refusal to grant the 12-month leave equated to an intention to terminate the HR manager’s employment. Instead, he said the HR manager had not offered any alternatives, adding that Willowdale was under no legal duty to approve the leave request.
Manousaridis concluded that the HR manager’s claims had no reasonable chance of success, ruling in favor of Willowdale. The case sheds light on the complex issues surrounding parental leave, employment rights, and corporate responsibilities, inviting further discussions in these areas.
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