Hilton Foods Solutions Ltd v Andrew Wright – Parental leave and protection from dismissal

27th March 2024


This case concerned an employee who after being made redundant, brought a claim for automatic unfair dismissal, claiming that the real reason for his dismissal was that he had sought to take parental leave to look after his disabled son. If correct, he would have been regarded as automatically unfairly dismissed. The employer tried to get the case struck out on the basis of a technicality by arguing that as the employee had not made a formal request to take parental leave, he could not be protected. The tribunal refused to strike out the claim and the employer appealed.

Whilst the employee had not formally applied to take parental leave, he had made it clear to the employer that it was his intention to take parental leave and he had made several informal enquiries. The employer argued that the regulations required a formal submission to be made and that an informal discussion as to the possibility of parental leave was insufficient.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) dismissed the appeal, finding that the there was no absolute requirement for employees to give notice to take parental leave and the Employment Tribunal were best placed to interpret cases, on proper consideration of all the relevant facts.

Key takeaway points

Employees do not necessarily need to have formally apply to take parental leave by giving notice to their employers in order to be protected from subsequent detriment. It is sufficient for employees to have made informal enquiries about taking parental leave to be protected from a detriment or dismissal situation. Employers should be on guard that the same analysis could be adopted for employees seeking other types of family leave, such as adoption and shared parental leave.

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