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Parental leave not reason for dismissal

September 2010 - Employment. Legal Developments by Norrbom Vinding Law Firm, member of ius laboris.

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It is okay to dismiss an employee on parental leave if the employer is able to show that the reason is a decline in business.

Maternity, paternity and parental leave can never constitute grounds for dismissal, whether in whole or in part. That would be at odds with the Danish Act on Equal Treatment of Men and Women. In this complaint, the Danish Board of Equal Treatment was to consider whether parental leave was the real reason for dismissal.

A woman product manager was pregnant and went on pregnancy-related sick leave. She gave birth to twins and took maternity leave, followed by parental leave.   While she was on leave, the employer was forced to restructure and lay off staff because of a decline in business. The employee's unit was hard hit, the number of staff being reduced from four to one. Since her job was cut, she was offered another job in the organisation. Refusing to accept the job offer, she was dismissed.   However, the employee believed that her parental leave was at least a contributing factor to her dismissal. She questioned the employer's need to restructure and did not find the new job offered appropriate. The pay was lower and the responsibilities less challenging compared with her former job. She therefore filed a complaint with the Board.  

Leave was not the reason
The Board decided in favour of the employer, taking into account that three out of four employees in the employee's unit were dismissed and that her job no longer existed. The employer had therefore shown that the reason for dismissal was poor finances, not parental leave.


Norrbom Vinding notes:

  • that the decision illustrates that employers can discharge the burden of proving that a dismissal is not based on maternity, paternity or parental leave if there is a major round of job cuts and the job held by the employee protected under the Danish Act on Equal Treatment of Men and Women is cut as part of this process.