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Shared Parental Leave

The Glasgow Employment Tribunal has reportedly awarded just under £30,000 to a father for indirect sex discrimination as a result of the manner in which his employer operated its Shared Parental Leave policy.

Both the father and mother of a newly born child are employed by Network Rail.  Its Shared Parental Leave policy provided that, whilst mothers were entitled to full pay for up to six months, fathers taking shared parental leave were only entitled to the statutory minimum payment of £140 per week.  The father brought a claim of indirect sex discrimination to the Employment Tribunals arguing that the policy placed men generally, and him specifically, at a particular disadvantage compared to female colleagues during periods of shared parental leave.

Prior to the tribunal hearing, Network Rail accepted that its policy of paying men less shared parental pay than women amounted to indirect sex discrimination and the award of compensation to the father included loss of earnings and injury to feelings.

This case is a reminder to employers that care should be taken when operating policies generally (not only maternity related policies) that they do not inadvertently place a group of employees (for example men/women, a particular ethnic group etc) at a disadvantage, resulting in discrimination.

Whilst indirect discrimination can be justified in certain circumstances, this is a complex area and it is recommended that legal advice is taken if an employer is considering relying upon a justification defence.

For further information, please contact Steven Harte.

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