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Father wins sex discrimination case on parental pay

BY Daniel Gorry
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

Whilst many employers offer enhanced maternity pay, they often do not offer the same for shared parental pay. In Snell v Network Rail, Mr Snell and his wife both worked for Network Rail. They decided to take shared parental leave to care for their baby, with Mrs Snell taking 27 weeks’ leave and Mr Snell opting to take 12 weeks after that. 

According to Network Rail’s policy, Mrs Snell would receive full pay whilst Mr Snell would receive only £139.58 per week; the statutory minimum shared parental pay rate. Mr Snell attempted to raise the issue with his bosses at Network Rail but his grievance was rejected based on the argument that they had met their legal obligations by paying statutory parental pay.

Mr Snell lodged a successful claim for indirect sex discrimination at ET. Judge Eccles said that ‘By the time of 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 which put the claimant at a particular disadvantage as a man’. Mr Snell was awarded £28,321 in this case.

Unfortunately for the Snells’ colleagues, theirs was a pyrrhic victory. Network Rail have since implemented a shared parental pay policy where neither gender will receive full pay during shared parental leave. Instead, all parents are now entitled to share 39 weeks of parental pay at the statutory rate.

Whilst this case, a first-instance decision, may not be binding, it should serve as a reminder for employers to review their own policies on shared parental pay to ensure that they are not open to a discrimination claim. 

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