Don’t get caught out – check your family friendly policies are not discriminatory

Shared parental leave (SPL), which came into force in April 2015, allows parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave, 37 of which are paid, following the birth or adoption of a child. 

A recent sex discrimination case has highlighted the need for employers to ensure their policies surrounding SPL, maternity pay or paternity pay are not discriminatory. In this case, an Employment Tribunal found that a father had been discriminated against on the grounds of his sex. The father, Mr Ali, had originally planned to take two weeks’ paternity leave. Following his wife’s diagnosis with post-natal depression and medical advice that she should return to work, he turned to SPL so he could remain at home to look after his child.

The issue for the company at the centre of the case, Telefonica, was that their policy entitled new mothers to 14 weeks of full pay. Fathers, however, were only entitled to two-weeks full paternity pay. Any SPL taken beyond that would be at the statutory rate. It was this discrepancy in pay offered to the mother versus the father that formed the basis of Mr Ali’s successful claim.

Although the decision by the tribunal was a first instance decision, and therefore not binding, it does highlight the need for businesses to thoroughly check their policies to ensure they are not discriminatory in any way. Policies put in place in good faith could, on closer examination, be found to be unintentionally discriminatory.