Sex discrimination claims are a risk for employers in the UK who pay fathers different rates of pay to mothers, following the first tribunal ruling of its kind.

A father has been awarded almost £28,000 in a sex discrimination case which centred on his employer’s refusal to pay him the same as his wife during shared parental leave.

The decision in Snell v Network Rail is a warning to employers that in order to avoid risk when they pay enhanced maternity pay they must also enhance pay to employees on shared parental leave.

ENHANCED PAY FOR SHARED PARENTAL LEAVE

Employers are best advised to be aware of any discrimination when making decisions on enhanced contractual pay to employees on shared parental leave when enhanced maternity pay already exists in the organisation.

Given this ruling, it is important that employers review their policy to ensure they do not adopt the same approach as this employer.

Mr Snell and his wife, who both worked for Network Rail and chose to share their leave when their baby was born in January of this year. In his application Mr Snell indicated that his wife would take leave of 27 weeks and he would take 12 weeks after that period.

However, full pay was offered to Mrs Snell for her six months’ leave while he was told he was only entitled to statutory parental pay of £139.58 per week.

Mr Snell raised a grievance with Network Rail, in which he stated: “Payments to mothers on shared parental leave will be at significantly different rates to fathers.

“As a result of this I believe I am being discriminated against because of my sex.”

 

STATUTORY PARENTAL PAY

 

The grievance not accepted by the company which stated that it had met its legal obligations through payment of statutory parental pay. An appeal, which took place after baby’s birth, was also rejected.

When his grievance was dismissed, Mr Snell lodged an indirect sex discrimination claim with an employment tribunal. His claim was successful and he was awarded £28,321.

The tribunal heard that Network Rail has since introduced a new family friendly policy, in which both mothers and their partners are paid statutory – rather than enhanced – shared parental pay.