Manchester United may have scored a legal own goal by dropping David Beckham after he missed training to deal with a domestic emergency.
Since the Parental Leave law came into effect last December, staff have the right to take “reasonable” time off for domestic emergencies.
Controversy has surrounded Beckham since he was dropped from the Leeds United match this month for failing to attend training the Friday before.
Reports of the incident have conflicted, but Beckham said both his baby son Brooklyn and wife Victoria were ill with gastro-enteritis. He apparently complied with his duty to inform his employer, by phoning manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
This constituted reasonable notice under the law, said Peter Meldrum, employment solicitor at Irwin Mitchell. "He is certainly an employee under the definition of the Act and is entitled to take reasonable time off during normal working hours to provide assistance when a dependant falls ill," he added.
Beckham could argue in a tribunal that the club refused to accept his right by imposing the harsh sanction of being dropped.
The only circumstance in which the club would have a defence would be if Beckham had been lying. But even here it should at least have tried to find out. Assuming that an employee is lying is not sufficient defence, Meldrum said.
Although the club's actions appear to be in breach, any action could only come by Beckham deciding to take the case to an employment tribunal.
Manchester United declined to comment.