A male employee has been awarded almost £30,000 for sex discrimination after his employer offered him only statutory pay during shared parental leave – while mothers were given full pay.
David Snell and his wife both work for Network Rail, and in the runup to the birth of their first child anticipated taking advantage of shared parental leave, which allows parental leave to be split between both parents, an employment tribunal in Glasgow heard.
Snell’s wife planned to take 27 weeks’ leave, after which he would take 12 weeks. But when he applied for the leave, he was told he was only entitled to statutory parental pay of £139.58 per week (which was available for up to 39 weeks), while his wife would receive full pay for 26 weeks.
Snell was advised he would only receive the “standard statutory rate of shared parental pay applicable at that time,” the tribunal heard. Managers also told him he would be opted out of the company pension scheme during his leave.
Snell raised a grievance, which stated: "Under this policy, payments to mothers on shared parental leave will be at significantly different rates to fathers, ie. 26 weeks’ full pay and 13 weeks’ statutory compared with 39 weeks’ statutory for fathers. As a result of this, I believe I am being discriminated against because of my sex."
Network Rail rejected the complaint. Its Family Friendly Policy at the time allowed up to 52 weeks to be shared between mothers and their partners, and the company argued it had met the "legal requirement" as it was only obliged to pay statutory parental pay.
Snell took his case to an employment tribunal, and also appealed the decision, which was later rejected. But the grievance was not taken to a hearing for months, which caused him additional distress: the tribunal was told he was hospitalised for high blood pressure in the run up to his wife’s due date.
Snell was awarded £28,321.03 and Network Rail admitted its policy was discriminatory. It has since reduced women's maternity leave entitlement to statutory payment only “to ensure fairness”.
Judge Frances Eccles said: “By the time of the hearing, it was no longer in dispute that Mr Snell was indirectly discriminated against by Network Rail in relation to his sex by the application of their family friendly policy. The policy put the claimant at a particular disadvantage as a man when compared with women during periods of shared parental leave.
“Mr Snell was distracted by Network Rail's failure to respond to his grievance and the level of pay he would receive during shared parental leave. He was unable to give his wife his full attention and support while she was ill.”
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