Parental Leave - Employment law update

Discrimination against women during pregnancy or maternity leave is a common issue and according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, it costs businesses around £280m a year.

Shared parental leave (SPL) can be a particular issue as although it was introduced to assist gender equality it is not always successful in doing so. It can lead to a lot of confusion and discrimination claims.

Enhanced maternal pay implications

The Employment Appeal Tribunal is due to hear two cases (Ali v Capita and Hextall v Leicester Police) to consider if employers that pay enhanced maternity pay must also pay enhanced shared parental pay to their other halves.

When these two cases, which had similar circumstances were first heard, they came to conflicting decisions.

When the regulations about enhanced shared parental leave first came into force, the government advice seemed to be that businesses would not have to enhance shared parental pay even if they enhanced maternity pay.

However, if these two appeals come to the decision that this is no longer the case, the guidelines will need to be revised.

Additional rights

Some people believe that there should be additional rights introduced for fathers.

For example, there is currently a right for fathers to take two weeks’ paternity leave but some think that if this period was extended more fathers would take it up.

It is reported that relatively few men are paid for SPL because the rules are too complex and there is still a perception that childcare is mainly a “women’s issue”.

Help and guidance

Because the law is complex, employers may need some help and guidance about the statutory provision surrounding paternity and maternity leave rules, including SPL.

Often talking to your employees about family leave can avoid potential issues but it is wise to have formal procedures in place to ensure consistency in practice.

If you need any help with employment law issues do get in touch with Daniel Zakis at our Solihull office on 0121 705 7571.

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