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Sweden: Reassigning Employees to other Duties during their part-time Parental Leave is Permissible

Author: Niclas Johansson

The Labour Court found that it was not a breach of the Parental Leave Act to reassign employees to other duties during their part-time parental leave, as the employees’ leave would otherwise have led to significant disturbances in the employer’s business and therefore, the reassignments were necessary consequences of their leave.

Three employees applied for part time parental leave for periods in 2019 and 2020. Their employer, the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, required the employees to accept reassignments to other duties during their leave, as their leave would cause significant disruptions in the employer’s business should they continue performing their ordinary duties during their leave. While two of the employees accepted their reassignments and were granted the requested leave, the third employee rejected any reassignment and was therefore, not granted the requested leave. The employees’ trade union claimed that the reassignments were disadvantageous to the employees due to their parental leave and, as such, the reassignments were in breach of the Parental Leave Act.

The Labour Court found that an employer should follow an employee’s wishes for parental leave, insofar as it is possible, provided that the arrangement of the leave does not cause a significant disruption in the employer’s business. If the requested leave would cause a substantial strain to the employer’s business, the employer should be allowed to deviate from the employee’s wishes for the parental leave. The Court found that reassigning an employee to other duties during part-time parental leave does not, in principle, represent an unfair disadvantage that constitutes a breach of the Parental Leave Act, if the reassignment is necessary to avoid a serious disruption of the employer’s operations and, as such, is a necessary consequence of the parental leave.

The Court found that the employees’ requested part-time parental leave would have substantially interfered with the employer’s capacity to conduct its business, if they had been allowed to continue their ordinary duties. Consequently, the Court found that the reassignments were not in breach of the Parental Leave Act, as the reassignments and the resulting disadvantages caused by the reassignments were necessary consequences of the requested part time parental leave.

Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-house Counsel

Reassigning an employee during their part-time parental leave is not in violation of the Parental Leave Act, if the part-time parental leave would otherwise entail a significant disruption to the employer’s business, should the employee be granted the part-time parental leave while continuing their ordinary duties.