Shared parental leave raises discrimination issue

A male employee has won his case for sex discrimination after his employer would only pay him statutory pay during shared parental leave while his wife received full pay from the same employer.

The decision could have consequences for other employers that pay different rates for men and women that take parental leave.

David Snell and his wife both work for Network Rail. They wanted to take advantage of shared parental leave, but when Snell applied for the leave, he was told he was only entitled to statutory parental pay of £139.58 per week even though his wife would receive full pay for 26 weeks.

An employment tribunal has now awarded £28,321.03 to Snell. In addition, Network Rail has admitted its policy was discriminatory; however, it has since reduced women's maternity leave entitlement to statutory pay only, giving both its male and female employees the same rate.

Judge Frances Eccles said: "Mr Snell was indirectly discriminated against by Network Rail in relation to his sex by the application of their family friendly policy. The policy put the claimant at a particular disadvantage as a man when compared with women during periods of shared parental leave."

Shared parental leave allows parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay in the year following the birth or adoption of their child. The minimum rate of shared parental pay, set by the Government, is currently £139.58 a week.

The Government says it is up to businesses whether they want to offer what's known as "enhanced" parental pay. It seems that many firms that offered enhanced maternity pay to female employees previously, had decided not to offer the same benefits to men when shared parental leave was introduced.

However, the outcome of this tribunal suggests that there are likely to be legal consequences for employers that don't offer parity in shared parental leave arrangements from now on.

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