On Wednesday (11 April), the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruled that paying a male employee on shared parental leave a different rate of pay to a female employee on maternity leave does not amount to sex discrimination.
This followed a previous Employment Tribunal decision, which found that a male employee, Madasar Ali, had been subjected to sex discrimination by his employer, Capita Customer Management, after it did not allow him to take additional paternity leave at full pay.
The EAT’s latest ruling was based on the difference in purpose behind maternity and shared parental leave.
Many employers that had been awaiting the outcome of this appeal will, no doubt, have breathed a sigh of relief that their policies could not be considered to be discriminatory, as previously ruled.
However, the case highlights an interesting point about shared parental leave. That is, should more organisations consider enhancing pay for shared parental leave to enable more families to take advantage of this option?
Although take up of shared parental leave is currently in line with pre-launch expectations of between 2% and 8%, the fact remains that this seems relatively low when viewed in context of the number of parents eligible to take this up.
Various industry surveys into the reasons behind this have highlighted several key factors driving this trend; with perceived concerns around stigma and career progression, along with the pay offered during a period of leave both appearing relatively high up the list of barriers to take up. Inevitably, in many cases, decisions around parental leave are likely to be made based on affordability, with the parent earning the lowest salary most likely to be the one undertaking the bulk of the leave available.
Of course, many decisions will be far more complex than simply number crunching, but as someone who is soon to embark on motherhood myself, I’m fully behind any initiatives that enable both parents to spend time with, and decide how best to care for, their new arrival. And surely you cannot put a price on the value that both parents, and their child, gain from time spent together during that precious first year?