A male employee of Network Rail has been awarded almost £30,000 when he was not given the same rate of pay as his wife for a period of Shared Parental Leave (SPL).
Since April 2015, SPL has allowed a mother and her spouse or partner to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay.
In this case, Mr Snell and his wife decided to take advantage of the new scheme, with the plan being that his wife would take 27 weeks’ SPL and Mr Snell would take 12 weeks. However, Mr Snell was then told that, while his wife would be entitled to 26 weeks’ full pay, he would receive shared parental pay at the statutory rate (currently £139.58 per week).
Mr Snell raised a grievance, which was handled badly by his employer and later rejected on the ground that Network Rail considered itself bound to provide him only the statutory rate of pay.
At the employment tribunal, the judge stated that Network Rail’s policy disadvantaged men when compared to women, and as such it was found to be indirectly discriminatory.
This case confirms the thinking of the employment tribunal in Shuter v Ford Motor Co, in which the tribunal found that a lack of pay parity between maternity leave and additional paternity leave (the predecessor to SPL) was indirectly discriminatory.
While it may be possible to justify a difference in pay, as it was in Shuter, justification in this context can be a difficult burden to overcome. Employers operating a difference in pay between family-friendly schemes may therefore wish to consider whether they wish to continue doing so.
If you have any questions on any of the issues raised in the above article, or would like to discuss how family-friendly schemes operate in your own workplace, please contact Seanpaul McCahill.