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Equality in Shared Parental Pay
Employers who pay mothers different rates of shared parental pay to fathers run the risk of sex discrimination claims, following the first tribunal decision of its kind.

In the recent case of Snell v Network Rail, a father was awarded £28,000 in a sex discrimination case after his employer refused to pay him the same as his wife while on shared parental leave.

Mr Snell and his wife, both worked for the same employer and they opted to share their leave when she gave birth to their baby in January this year. His application indicated that his wife would take 27 weeks’ leave and he would take 12 weeks after that.

However although Mrs Snell would receive full pay for her six months’ leave, Mr Snell was told he was only entitled to statutory parental pay of £139.58 for this period. Mr Snell raised a grievance against his employer, in which he stated: “Payments to mothers on shared parental leave will be at significantly different rates to fathers. “As a result of this I believe I am being discriminated against because of my sex.”

Network Rail rejected his grievance claiming it had met its legal obligations by only paying statutory parental pay. An appeal, which did not take place until after the birth of the baby, was also rejected.

When his grievance was dismissed, Mr Snell lodged an indirect sex discrimination claim with an employment tribunal. His claim was successful and he was awarded over £28,000 in compensation.

The tribunal heard that Network Rail has since introduced a new family friendly policy, in which both mothers and their partners are paid statutory – rather than enhanced – shared parental pay.

This is only an Employment Tribunal ruling, not an Employment Appeal Tribunal or higher court so is not directly binding on other employers, but it is the first case on Shared Parental Leaven and is something to watch out for. The key facts here are that they were looking at different rates of pay for Shared Parental Leave – not a comparison between Shared Parental Leave Pay and Maternity Pay.

The issue of whether or not it is discriminatory for employers to enhance maternity pay but not shared parental pay has not yet been addressed by the courts and tribunals.

If you have concerns about your own shared parental pay arrangements, please get in touch for advice.
Posted on 19 Nov 2016

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