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Sex discrimination warning for businesses

An employment law expert is reminding businesses that sex discrimination can affect men as well as women, and steps should be taken to ensure policies reflect this.

Chris King, solicitor in the Employment & HR team at North West law firm Napthens, is warning that employers should ensure equality of treatment between their male and female employees – particularly when it comes to discrepancies between maternity pay and shared parental pay schemes, an area which may often be overlooked for male staff.

Men and women can share parental leave, and it is important to ensure both sexes are able to receive the same pay while they are away from work, as a business may face claims of sex discrimination if they do not.

The warning comes following a legal case involving Network Rail. A couple who both worked for the business planned to take shared parental leave, but once the leave was applied for discovered that while the mother could claim full pay, the father was entitled only to statutory pay.

Chris said: “Network Rail argued the couple were able to do this as the minimum legal requirement was simply to pay statutory parental pay to the father.

“However, the case was taken to an employment tribunal and ultimately Network Rail admitted its policy was discriminatory. In a move which has been seen as a pyrrhic victory for employees, the company has now reduced women’s maternity leave to the basic level too.

“This is one method a business can use to ensure fair pay across the board, or the enhanced pay may be offered to men and women.

“Any business looking to change its policies relating to maternity pay and shared parental pay should not do so without getting legal advice first.

“This case may result in further claims in the future so it will be interesting to watch what effect it has on the business community.”