man holding child photo

Written by Susan Barker, Senior HR Consultant

A recent employment tribunal case has been won by a father who felt he had been discriminated against on the grounds of his sex. This was a groundbreaking case and the first of its kind, and is one which gives a strong message to employers that male and female employees must be treated the same.

Snell v Network Rail is a case Mr Snell and his wife both worked for Network Rail and decided to make use of the Shared Parental Leave entitlement when their baby was born in January this year.

Shared Parental Leave was introduced in April 2015 and although the take up on this entitlement has been minimal, it was expected that claims would arise from this somewhat complicated piece of legislation.

Mr Snell had complied with the entire qualifying requirements necessary to be entitled to take the 12 weeks shared parental leave he had requested, and the leave was granted by Network Rail.  However a problem arose when Mr Snell was informed he would only be entitled to statutory parental pay of £139.58 for this period, whereas Mrs Snell would receive full pay for her six months leave as the company operated an enhanced pay policy for mothers.

Mr Snell raised a grievance with his employer, stating that he felt he was being discriminated against because of his sex, on that basis that mothers received significantly different rates to fathers.   The grievance, along with a subsequent appeal was rejected as Network Rail felt that they had met their legal obligations by paying statutory parental pay.

Mr Snell was therefore left with no choice other than to pursue his claim to an employment tribunal for indirect sex discrimination. His claim was successful and he was awarded £28,321.

Interestingly, when Shared Parental Leave was introduced legal experts fully expected that this type of claim would arise as company policies do offer enhanced family friendly policies to mothers, and it was felt that this could always be a risk area. The case confirms that employers need to look at their policies and ensure that the same rates are paid to men and women.

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, probably a decision which other employers may well now follow in light of this case.

If you need any support or guidance, please do not hesitate to contact the HR Consultancy team on 01484 439930.