Parental leave is not equivalent to statutory maternity leave

Two recent cases involving fathers taking paternity leave have highlighted a defining difference between parental leave and a mother’s statutory maternity leave.

One male employee who worked for a technology firm sued for sex discrimination after his employers insisted he should not be paid at the same rate as mothers on statutory maternity leave.

A similar case saw a policeman claim sex discrimination because shared parental leave was not paid at the same rate as that of a female police officer on maternity leave.

The male police officer was entitled to 14 weeks’ shared parental leave paid at the statutory rate. Female officers on maternity leave were entitled to full pay for the equivalent period.

Both male workers were unsuccessful with their claims.

The rulings highlighted the actual purpose of statutory maternity leave was:

  • to prepare for and cope with the later stages of pregnancy
  • to recuperate from the pregnancy
  • to recuperate from the effects of childbirth
  • to develop the special relationship between the mother and the newborn child
  • to breastfeed the newborn child
  • to care for the newborn child.

This leave is to allow the mother time to recover physically and emotionally after giving birth.

Although parents are entitled to leave to be at home with their newborn child, it is not an equivalent to the rest time allowed to mothers after giving birth and is not entitled to the same rates of pay.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article, or any aspect of employment law.

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