Shared parental leave and discrimination

When a couple discovered that they were to have their first child, they decided that the husband would stay at home to care for the baby whilst the wife returned to work. The husband was employed by a County Council and their policy on shared parental leave provided for those taking such leave to receive an amount equivalent to statutory maternity pay, while those on adoption leave were entitled to full pay. The husband compared his position to that of a female employee on adoption leave and contended that his employer's policy gave rise to direct discrimination. The Employment Tribunal dismissed his claim and his subsequent appeal was dismissed.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that the predominant purpose of adoption leave was not simply to facilitate childcare and it was not the same as shared parental leave. They found that there was no sex discrimination on the face of it in paying the husband less under the terms of his employers' policy than the amount that a female employee would receive when taking adoption leave.

This decision may give employers some reassurance but is a reminder that shared parental leave has not been widely used. It is important for employers to ensure that their policies are properly and fairly drafted. It is equally important for employees to be able to take the amount of leave to which they are properly entitled upon the birth of a child (or adoption).

To discuss this or any other employment related matter, please contact us.