Employees benefit from a number of family-friendly rights, such as the more commonly known maternity leave and its statutory pay, and paternity leave and its statutory pay. But a few years ago, the Government introduced two additional schemes to benefit the working parent. These were shared parental leave (SPL) and statutory shared parental leave pay (ShPP).
The ability for both female and male employees to take SPL offers parents a more flexible way to take leave in the first year after their child is born, or when a child is placed with them for adoption.
If parents choose to take SPL, they can also benefit from ShPP (subject to eligibility criteria).
How is ShPP paid?
The government decides the rate that ShPP is paid every year. The current rate is £148.68, or 90% of an employee’s average weekly earnings, whichever is the lower.
This is similar to statutory maternity pay, except in regard to the first six weeks of statutory maternity pay which is paid at 90%, or whatever an employee earns.
What if we offer enhanced maternity pay to our female staff, do we have to offer enhanced ShPP to our male staff too?
Employers often offer female employees enhanced maternity pay for a period of their maternity leave, but when the equivalent enhanced pay isn’t available to their male counterparts, problems can result, an example of which is a recent Employment Tribunal claim, Capita Customer Management Limited v Ali .
Mr. Ali wished to take SPL so that his wife could go back to work, and he could care for their new-born child.
He was refused a rate of enhanced pay equivalent to what a female member of staff would get on maternity leave. Mr. Ali claimed direct sex discrimination, as he was not entitled to pay at this higher maternity pay rate as a woman would have been.
It followed in the Employment Tribunal, that he had suffered direct sex discrimination.
This was appealed by Capita to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. The Appeal Tribunal found that the purpose of paid maternity leave is for the health and wellbeing of a woman in pregnancy after recent childbirth. It was not for caring, which Mr. Ali argued.
Mr. Ali is now appealing the Appeal Tribunal’s decision to the Court of Appeal.
What does this mean?
Depending on the outcome of Mr. Ali’s appeal, employers may have to review the benefits package they offer prospective and current employees.
If an employer decides to take away enhanced benefits, caution should be taken, particularly if they are contractual and the employee has accepted the job on the understanding such benefits will be provided. In contrast, if an employer decides to offer enhanced payments, policies and procedures must be well drafted as employers may wish to qualify the benefits they offer.
This is why it is so important to have a clear and fair family-friendly rights policy in an up to date Staff Handbook, to ensure the benefits package you offer is managed fairly and consistently.
If you would like advice in regard to your staff benefits package, or your Staff Handbook, please get in touch.