A father’s legal rights to time off work and statutory pay are showing signs of weakness, as the Trade Union Congress (TUC) review published on 18th June shows that a quarter of fathers in employment with a child under the age of one, did not even qualify for statutory paternity leave or paternity pay in 2016.
The current statutory entitlement is one to two (consecutive) weeks ordinary paternity leave at just £140.98 per week, which must be taken within 56 days of a child’s birth or placement of adoption.
The TUC review questioned why so many fathers have not received this entitlement. It noted that the first reason was because self-employed fathers are not eligible for paternity leave, and a second reason is due to the requirement to have 6 months’ service with their current employer by the 15th week before the baby is due, which together was calculated to affect a total of 157,000 fathers across the UK.
The TUC’s General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, has said that they would like to see all fathers being given the right to longer, better-paid leave when a child is born and for this to be a day one right.
She also highlighted the importance that improved paternity rights could have for mothers, as this could lead to shared caring responsibilities, strengthened relationships, and an increase in the number of mothers able to continue in their careers.
It was hoped that the introduction of shared parental leave in 2015 would have achieved these aims, as it gives parents the choice to share up to 50 weeks leave between them, but unfortunately this does not appear to have happened in practice.
The recent Judgment in Snell v Network Rail involved the first case for sex discrimination arising from shared parental leave, where the Tribunal has favoured the employee (Claimant). Mr Snell was awarded £28,321 in compensation, after he challenged his employer’s policy which provided a period of full pay to mothers and primary adopters on shared parental leave, but only the statutory rate of pay to partners and secondary adopters.
While this is only the first Tribunal decision of its kind, it highlights the risk of facing sex discrimination claims, should an employer choose to pay mothers and fathers varying rates of shared parental pay.
The Employment Team at Jackson Boyd specialises in helping workers who believe they have been treated unfairly as a result of exercising their right to parental leave, as well as assisting employers who require their policies on shared parental leave to be reviewed or amended in order to ensure they are not at risk of future claims. While there are legal regulations in place which sets out the statutory guidelines to be followed, it is of course open to any employer to enhance paternity leave in the form of contractual rights or by way of a policy, should they choose to do so.
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