Parental leave – equal pay?

A recent ruling by the Court of Appeal (COA) has clarified the differing purposes of shared
parental leave (ShPL) and maternity leave.

ShPL is to provide assistance with childcare whilst maternity leave is for the protection of the mother’s health and wellbeing, as well as her “special relationship” with her child. This clarification was part of a recent judgement by the COA which ruled that not enhancing ShPL pay to the level of enhanced maternity pay does not amount to discrimination against male employees.

In this case, employers were offering their female employees enhanced maternity pay. The two fathers who brought the claims had taken ShPL and were paid at the statutory rate – both claiming, unsuccessfully, that this was sex discrimination as their pay was less than their female counterparts on enhanced maternity pay.

Legal opinion

This may be a welcome ruling for many employers for whom making enhanced maternity pay match ShPL pay could prove too costly. However, this ruling could also mean that women are less likely to receive support beyond financial assistance during their maternity leave. For example, one of the claimants in this case had taken ShPL in order to support his wife who was suffering with post natal depression.

With the pay levels of ShPL placing families at a financial disadvantage, it’s not surprising that the uptake amongst fathers since its introduction in 2015 has remained low.