What is ‘Shared Parental Leave’?
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) was introduced in 2015 and was designed to help parent share leave between them, post-birth or adoption. Therefore, both maternity and adoption leave can be shared.
Employees can start Shared Parental Leave if they’re eligible and they or their partner end their maternity or adoption leave or pay early. The remaining leave will be available as Shared Parental Leave, and the remaining pay may be available as Shared Parental Pay.
‘Leftover’ Shared Parental Leave and Shared Parental Pay must be taken between the baby’s birth and first birthday, or within one year of adoption.
To benefit from Shared Parental Leave and Shared Parental Pay, both parents must be eligible. You can check the eligibility criteria, to see if you are eligible here.
Differences in Maternity and Paternity Pay
However, recently the issue of a discrepancy in Shared Parental Pay between men and women has been addressed by the courts.
Ali v Capita and Hextall v Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police concerned two claims heard by the Supreme Court, in regard to complaints surrounding discrimination in related to shared parental leave allowances.
In both claims made, the employer had intentionally enhanced the pay of women employees during maternity leave. However, this was without doing the same in the Shared Parental Leave stage.
Mr Ali’s complaint was made in reference to 12 weeks Shared Parental Leave, whereby only female employees would receive 12 weeks of full pay- the enhanced rate. Therefore, claiming on the basis of sex discrimination.
Mr Hextall brought a similar claim, contending his employer’s policy on Shared Parental leave and pay created a disadvantage for male employees and was unlawful discrimination.
The Supreme Court ruled there was no discrimination in affording mothers a higher rate of Shared Parental Pay, in comparison to fathers.
The reason given was that a man on Shared Parental Leave is primarily for the purposes of childcare and this is not comparable with the circumstances for which a new mother is on Shared Parental Leave, which include health and safety purposes.
Implications of this decision
For as long as this decision is not overturned, this is positive for employers. This decision means employers do not have to alter their Shared Parental Pay policies, to ensure that the rate of maternity pay matches the rate of paternity pay.
However, it is important for employers to be mindful of their legal obligations surrounding Shared Parental Leave and Pay, to avoid the cost of any possible claim against them for a failing of their obligations.
Likewise, it is key that employees know their rights when it comes to Shared Parental Leave, Pay and Maternity/Paternity.
If you have any questions about Shared Parental Leave, contact our solicitors and HR advisors today.