Decision at Trial
The Court found Roy Morgan Research took adverse action by failing to return the employee to her pre-parental leave position including because she exercised the right to take parental leave. The Court further found the company withdrew redeployment obligations and brought forward her redundancy for similar unlawful reasons.
Decision on Penalties
The Court has now made a decision as to the application for compensation and for pecuniary penalties.
The Court, in reaching its decision, emphasised a lack of contrition on the behalf of the company; an aim to reinforce compliance with statutory standards and the need deterrence. Further, the Court found that the adverse action was a deliberate act of senior management.
Ultimately, the company was fined a total of $52,000, to be paid to Ms Heraud, as a combination of $19,560 plus interest for loss of wages, $20,000 for “for the loss of enjoyment, loss of reputation and distress experienced” and the remainder in pecuniary penalties for contraventions of the Act.
Lessons and Actions for Employers
This case is a reminder that employers need to consider their obligations to employees who are absent on parental leave during restructures, including to consult with employees regarding proposed restructures and to return employees to their pre-parental leave position (or a comparable position if the previous position no longer exists). Opening lines of communication to an employee on parental leave or holding their position open may require additional effort and business resources. However, these resource costs are likely dwarfed by the potential penalties a Court might grant if such rights or entitlements are contravened.
HR Legal provides assistance to employers with navigating restructure processes and managing the associated legal risks. We also aim to provide our clients with proactive advice and training that assists them in meeting their legal obligations to employees while attaining business objectives.
To achieve this, in collaboration with psychologists from Transitioning Well, we offer a unique workshop for human resources managers, which sets out an employer’s legal obligations, as well as highlighting best practice strategies for navigating parental leave and return to work. If you require assistance on redundancy and terminations, or are interested in our workshop, please contact us.
This article was produced by HR Legal. It is intended to provide general information only in summary format on legal issues. It does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on as such.