Shared Parental Leave Update

In the recent case of Snell v Network Rail an employment tribunal in Scotland awarded Mr Snell nearly £30,000 after his employer was found to have discriminated against him on the grounds of sex after Network Rail refused to pay Mr Snell the same as his wife whilst on shared parental leave.

By way of background, Mr and Mrs Snell both work for Network Rail. The pair opted to take shared parental leave following the birth of their baby in January 2016. Mr Snell’s application indicated his wife would take 27 weeks’ leave and then he would take 12 weeks after this.

Network Rail’s Shared Parental Leave Policy was as follows:

  • Mothers/primary adopters could receive 26 weeks’ shared parental pay at full pay, and then a further 13 weeks’ paid at the rate of statutory shared parental pay (£139.58), and then a further 13 weeks’ unpaid leave
  • Partners/secondary adopters were entitled to 39 weeks’ shared parental pay at the rate of statutory shared parental pay and a further 13 weeks’ unpaid leave.

Mr Snell raised a grievance stating that the policy amounted to sex discrimination. Network Rail argued that the policy was not discriminatory as it would be applied in the same way to a female partner of Mrs Snell. The grievance was subsequently rejected.

Mr Snell then lodged an indirect sex discrimination claim against his employer. The employment tribunal agreed with Mr Snell and found that Network Rail’s policy disadvantaged partners (who were most likely to be male) by paying them less favourably than mothers, which amounted to indirect sex discrimination. Mr Snell was awarded £28,231 for injury to feelings and future financial loss.

This was the first Employment Tribunal decision on shared parental leave since it was introduced in April 2015. As the judgement was not made by the EAT it is not binding on other employment tribunals. It does however give a clear indication on how similar claims may be settled.

In light of the above, Slater Heelis are offering a complimentary review of your business’ maternity, paternity and shared parental leave policies to ensure they are compliant. Should you wish to have your policies reviewed then do not hesitate to email tracey.guest@slaterheelis.co.uk